Illustration by Duane Raver
Scientific Name: Ameiurus catus
Classification: Nongame Fish
Abundance: Common in lakes and rivers in the Piedmont and Coastal regions of NC.
White catfish (Photo: Chris Crippen/NANFA)
White catfish state record (13 lbs; from Lake James by Jerry Wayne Bentley; on 5/21/1990
Catfish Management in North Carolina's Southeastern Rivers
A member of the bullhead group of catfishes, the white catfish is usually blue-gray above, fading to gray on sides with a white belly. It has a moderately forked tail with rounded ends, and its upper jaw extends slightly beyond the lower. The white catfish is sometimes mistaken for the channel catfish, but the white catfish has a much wider head and lacks black spots on its sides.
White catfish are native to rivers and streams that flow to the Atlantic Ocean. They can also be found in the French Broad and Pigeon rivers, although they may have been stocked in these Tennessee River tributaries. While quite common, white catfish are often overlooked. This may be in part to their small size compared to flathead, blue and channel catfish. However, these fish are aggressive feeders and have a tendency to feed more during the daytime than other catfish.
White Catfish are considered nongame fish by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. There are currently no limits on recreational and commercial harvest, except for the one-fish daily creel limit for Blue Catfish greater than 32 inches on eight Piedmont reservoirs and the six-fish daily creel limit on forked tail catfishes on Commission game lands and Community Fishing Program ponds.
Nongame Fish Size and Creel Limits
Nongame Fish Regulations
White catfish make excellent table fare, and anglers can catch them using many of the same methods for other catfish. Worms, minnows, scented baits and hellgrammites fished on or near the bottom work well.
White catfish can be found in lakes and rivers in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. In the Piedmont, the impoundments on the Yadkin and Catawba rivers are popular places to fish, while the Tar, Roanoke and Chowan rivers have good numbers in the Coastal Plain.
2021 - Tar River, Flathead Catfish, Channel Catfish, White Catfish, Blue Catfish, 2020 (16-page Final Report)
2019 - N.C. Catfish Management Plan (PDF)
2014 - Assessment of Neuse River Catfish Populations (PDF)
2019 - Assessment of Catfish Populations in the Pungo River, Newport River and Great Lake, 2019 (PDF)
2018 - 2018 Catfish Survey in the New River in Onslow County (PDF)
2009 - Cape Fear River a Haven for Catfish Anglers (PDF)
Where to Fish
NC Freshwater Fishing State Record Program
NC Angler Recognition Program (NCARP)
NC Catfish Management Plan