Ictaluridae - North American catfishes

The North American catfishes are the freshwater catfishes. They are included here because one species, the blue catfish, can sometimes be found in abundance in low saline areas of the bays. These catfishes are similar to the sea catfishes in that they are scaleless, have a dorso-ventrally flattened head, a single thick spine in the anterior of the dorsal fin and pectoral fins and an adipose fin. They differ in that they have 4 pair of whiskers or barbels on their head (chin, lips and nostrils). Sea catfishes have 3 (hardhead) and 2 (gafftopsail). As with their marine counterparts, the spines on the fins of the North American catfishes can cause deep painful puncture wounds and may be venomous. The large species are very popular in restaurants. Many are raised on private farms and are stocked in ponds and lakes or sold commercially.