In 1997, Gov. Mel Carnahan signed a bill designating the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) the official fish of Missouri. 

The channel catfish is slender with a deeply forked tail. The young have spots that disappear with age. This fish does not rely on sight to find its food. Instead, it uses catlike whiskers called barbles to probe for its meal. The channel cat is the most abundant large catfish in Missouri streams and rivers. Its diet includes animal and plant materials. Adults are normally 12 to 32 inches long and weigh from one pound to 15 pounds.

The channel catfish is a game fish and can be legally caught in Missouri waters, provided anglers follows regulations. The record-holding largest Missouri channel catfish was 34 pounds 10 ounces, caught by Gerald R. Siebenmorgen in 1974.

This post was contributed by Ross Malone. A historian and a retired school teacher, Ross has authored many books about Missouri’s history, weird facts, and folk tales. He has also written children’s historical fiction. Visit his website, and buy his books in the Missouri Life store.

Also based on content from the Missouri Secretary of State website.

Photo credit: Yoshuke Ota, Unsplash