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New Jersey freshwater fish identification

Catfish, Madtoms and Bowfins

Family Ictaluridae, Family Amiidae

There are over 2200 species of catfish on Earth, most are active only at night. Some of these Ictalurides have

glandular cells in the skin around the fin spines that are venomous; most are madtoms. For most victims the "sting"

is only as bad as that of a bee, but some reactions are much worse. Fossils of bowfins have been found all over

the world dating back to the Jurassic period. They are the only living species from the Amiidae family.

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) grow to 50 inches and, like most catfish have an air bladder. They are

pale blue to olive-black on the top and sides and white below. Scattered light spots are on the body except

on the young and on very large adults. The predorsal profile is sloping and slightly rounded. They are widely

marketed, and often grown in hatcheries strictly for human consumtion. In 1978, Howard Hudson caught a

33 Lbs. 3 Oz. NJ state record in Lake Hopatcong. The minimum size keeper is 12 inches and no more than

5 may be kept in a single day fishing.

White catfish (Ameiurus catus) reach about 24 inches in length and have a moderately forked caudal fin. White

catfish have 11 to 15 large sawlike "teeth" on the rear of the pectoral spine. They are gray to blue-black above

and white to light yellow below with a dusky black adipose fin. The Raritan River yielded the 10 Lbs. 5 Oz. NJ

state record to Lewis Lomerson back in 1976. The bag limit is 25 fish per day of any size.

Black bullhead (Ameiurus melas) grow to about 25 inches and normally don't have sawlike teeth on the pectoral

spine. The rays on the front of the anal fin are shorter than those on the rear, and the rear edge of the caudal fin

is slightly notched. They are dark olive, yellow-brow, or slate-olive above; shiny green-gold to yellow or whitish

on the sides. The fins are dusky black. . The bag limit is 25 fish per day of any size.

Brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) grow to 21 inches, and have 5 to 8 sawlike teeth on the pectoral spine.

They are very similar to the black bullheads except they have brown or black mottling or spots on the body. Like

all catfish they have the telltale barbels or "whiskers" around the mouth. Gary Schmidt caught the NJ state record

of 4 Lbs. 8 Oz. in The Lake Of The Woods in Fort Dix in 1997. The bag limit is 25 fish per day of any size.

Tadpole madtom (Noturus gyrinus) grow to about 5 inches and have a chubby body and equal jaws. They

have no sawlike teeth on the rear of the pectoral spines, and the rear edge of the caudal fin is rounded. Tadpole

madtoms have a tan or light brown body with gray to brown fins.

Slender madtom (Noturus exilis) grow to around 6 inches, and have a long, slender body and a flat head. The

pectoral spines have about 6 teeth on the rear edge, and the rear edge of the caudal fin is straight or only slightly

rounded on the corners. They are yellow-brown to gray-black above; light yellow below with pale yellow fins.

They have a large light yellow spot on the nape; and a smaller spot at the rear of the dorsal fin base.

Margined madtom (Noturus insignis) reach about 6 inches in length. They are very similar to the slender madtom

except the upper jaw projects beyond the lower, the caudal fin is longer and they have no light spot on the dorsal

fin base. Some have black edges on the median fins.

Bowfin (Amia calva) can reach up to 43 inches, have a long cylindrical body and a large head. The long dorsal

fin has 42 to 53 rays and extends more than half the length of its back. The large mouth has many teeth and the

upper jaw extends beyond the eye. The nostrils are tubular. The pectoral, pelvic and caudal fins are rounded.

The bowfin is mottled olive above and cream-yellow to pale green below. Breeding males have brilliant green

or turquoise lips, throat, belly and ventral fins. They are very rare in New Jersey and throughout the world.

questions about fish terminology? GO TO: FISH BODY CHARTS




By Joe M. Cianci. See main page for list of sources. Send E mail to me at Comments welcome!