White Catfish

Illustration by Duane Raver
(Enlarge image)

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

Additional Information

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.

The following fishing regulations are effective Aug. 1 of each year.

Nongame Fish Size and Creel Limits

Nongame Fish Regulations

Fishing Tips:

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.

Places to Fish:

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.