Variety of Fish


There are 3 types of Catfish at Lake El Novillo; Channel Catfish, Blue Catfish and Flathead Catfish.
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Understanding the different catfish species and their different behaviors helpful to being a successful catfish angler.  Many of those who have fished El Novillo have caught catfish of all three types, even when fishing for bass or tilapia.  How do you know which type you chomped down on your bait or lure?
Here are the key identifying characteristics of blue catfish and channel catfish and how you can tell the difference between these catfish species.

Channel Catfish

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  • Appearance is olive brown to grey coloring white a silvery white or white belly.
  • Protruding upper jaw
  • Rounded anal fin (laid flat it curves out like a letter “C”
  • Twenty four to twenty nine rays, (spines), in the anal fin
  • Often has dark spots, but these spots can be absent in adult fish
  • Deeply forked tail

Blue Catfish

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  • Appearance is slate blue to white coloring. Underside is white.
  • Anal fin is flat (when laid flat it forms a straight line)
  • Anal fin has between thirty and thirty six rays, (or spines)
  • Forked tail, but may be more rounded and more slightly notched than Channel catfish

Flathead Catfish

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Appearance is pale yellow to light brown and may be mottled, with a light cream or pale yellow underside. 
  • Protruding lower jaw
  • Juvenile fish are often dark brown.
  • Flatheads may exhibit brown or black spotting.

 Channel Catfish - Ictalurus Punctatus

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Ictalurus is Greek and punctatus is Latin, meaning “fish cat” and “spotted”.
Channel Catfish can easily be identified in comparison to blue catfish and flathead catfish by paying a little attention to the distinguishing features of the species. Channel catfish have a deeply forked tail similar to blue catfish but the coloring is much different than that of a blue.
Because of the coloring of the channel catfish they are often confused by inexperienced anglers with the flathead catfish. Channels however have a deeply forked tail (instead of slightly notched) and have a protruding upper jaw (instead of lower jaw).
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The coloring of channel catfish is most often olive brown to slate in color and even with shades of blue and grey at times on the sides. The underside or bellies of the fish are white or silvery white. Typically there are numerous small black spots present but these may be absent in larger fish. The anal fin has 24–29 rays (in comparison to a blue catfish which has 30 or more).  Adult channel catfish can reach over 120 lbs, while its fairly common to find them from 15 lbs and up.  Anglers fishing El Novillo have caught channel catfish up to 55 lbs.
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Channel Catfish Behavior

Channel catfish typically spawn in late spring and early summer when water temperatures reach 75 degrees. The male fish select nest sites (like other species) which are typically selected in very dark secluded areas like cavities in rock piles or rip rap, logs, trees, undercut banks etc. Eggs are laid in the bottom of the bests and the male fish guard the nest. Biologists have also noted that male channel catfish may actually eat some of the eggs if disturbed.
Young channel catfish (less than four inches in length) feed primarily on smaller insects. Adult channels are omnivorous feeding on mussels, crustaceans, fish, plants and insects. Most channel catfish will reach sexual maturity in three to six years or when they reach about twelve inches in length.
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Channel catfish are most abundant in large streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs with low or moderate current.
Channel catfish are one of the most popular species of fish in the United States ranking second only to bass in many areas. Part of the reason for the popularity is that they obviously make excellent table fare but also because they are abundant and readily available in most lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

Channel Catfish Baits

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Channel catfish can be caught with a variety of baits including natural baits like worms, bait fish, crawfish or other natural baits but most popular is prepared catfish baits like punch baits, dip baits and soap baits. One popular technique used with prepared baits is chumming with soured grains like wheat or milo or using range cubes as chum.  Channel cats In El Novillo will hit plastics working the bottom, spinner baits, or any type lure that can be worked near the bottom.  They are mostly found in the deeper water in canyons where there is less current than near the river’s edges.

Blue Catfish – Ictalurus Furcatus

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Ictalurus is Greek meaning “fish cat”, and furcatus is Latin, meaning “forked”, a reference to the species’ forked tail fin.  Blue catfish have a forked tail, and are sometimes very similar to channel catfish. However, only the Rio Grande population has dark spots on the back and sides. The number of rays in the anal fin is typically 30–35**, and coloration is usually slate blue on the back, shading to white on the belly.  Other Names the Blue Catfish is known by include, Hump-back blue, high fin blue, hi-fin blue, Mississippi white catfish, blues
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Blues are native to major rivers of the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi river basins. The range also extends south through Texas, Mexico, and into northern Guatemala. In Texas it is absent from the northwestern portions of the state including the Panhandle, but present elsewhere in larger rivers.

Blue Catfish Behavior

The spawning behavior of blue catfish is similar to that of channel catfish but they’re otherwise very different catfish species.
Most blue catfish are not sexually mature until they reach about 24 inches in length. Like channel catfish, the blue catfish pursues a varied diet, but it tends to eat fish earlier in life. Although invertebrates still comprise the major portion of the diet, blue catfish as small as four inches in length have been known to consume fish. Individuals larger than eight inches eat fish and large invertebrates.
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Blue catfish commonly reach weights of 20 to 40 pounds, and can reach weights well in excess of 100 pounds. It is reported that fish exceeding 350 pounds were landed from the Mississippi River during the late 1800′s.
Blues live in rivers, lakes, reservoirs and major tributaries to them as long as there is clear, swift water. They can be found over sand, gravel or rocky bottoms.
Where mature populations exist, 50-pounders are not unusual. Like the channel catfish, the blue catfish is considered an excellent food fish. Lake El Novillo has produced a number of blue catfish in excess of 40 lbs.
The young are hatched in about one week and the male will guard the young for a week or so at the nest site. Then the fry will swim away and be on their own.
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When they are young they will feed on aquatic insects and small fish, as they grow they will eat crayfish, mussels and other fish. Blue catfish are considered a predator and scavenger fish. The diet of the fish usually consists primarily of live or freshly dead shad or other fish. They have been caught at over 100 foot depths in the lake.  Blues tend to stay near the edges of the Yaqui and Moctezuma rivers, or on the gravel banks along the edges of the rivers.
Blues are fast growers and have an estimated life span of between 20 to 30 years.

Blue Catfish Fishing

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They are often sought after by catfish anglers not only for their size but for fighting nature as well. They are known for putting up a good fight and really making it exciting for the angler. Once an angler has hooked a blue will have a long tough battle, not only because of the size but also because of their strength and determination. Catfish 5 14 2020 done11
They will bite artificial baits but most anglers prefer to fish for them with live bait or freshly dead bait. The fish prefers bait with a strong scent trail so anglers that use fresh dead cut bait have tendency to use fish that is very oily for bait. Blue catfish are opportunistic feeders and are often known to be found feeding under schools of striped bass or white bass picking up shad or other bait fish that they have injured.
Many anglers fish for them on the bottom as they do feed on the bottom but blue catfish are also known to suspend in the water column and even feed on the top of the water on occasion. Blue catfish in El Novillo can be caught on plastics working the bottom, crank baits, spinner baits, and even, occasionally on top water lures.  Those fishing specifically for them will usually be successful using live bait, live worms, of pieces of other fish or meat near the bottom.
Blue catfish can be caught in very deep water or in very shallow water depending on the time of the year.

Flathead Catfish – Pylodictis Olivaris

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Pylodictis is Greek and means “mud fish” and olivaris is Latin for “olive colored” obviously due to the dark olive and yellow coloring of the skin of the species. They are typically pale yellow to light brown on their backs and sides and this coloring is also very mottled with additional coloring for black and brown. The underside is usually a much lighter cream color or pale yellow color. The young are often very dark brown.
Other names, Yellow Cat, Opelousa Catfish, Opp, Appaloosa Catfish, App, Pied Cat, Shovelhead Cat, Mud Fish.  
Flathead Catfish are known to grow to trophy class sizes, all in addition to being excellent table fare.
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The heads are very broad and flattened (hence the name “flathead”) and often look like that of a shovel that has been turned over, which is why the species is often referred to as a shovelhead.
The lower jaw projects out. The lower jaw resembles that of what would be referred to as an “under bite” in humans.
Tail fins have a slight notch in them and are not deeply forked like the typical tails of blue and channel catfish.

Flathead Behavior

Unlike the channel and blue catfish that are scavengers (or opportunistic predators) flathead catfish prey only on live fish (as a general rule).
The young feed primarily on crayfish, worms, invertebrates and crayfish. Once they grow larger the diet consists entirely of fish of any species (including other catfish).
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Spawning season runs typically from May through August when water temperatures are between seventy five and eighty degrees.
To spawn the males select undercut banks, hollow logs, trees and other similar habitats for their nesting sites. Once a nesting site is selected the male fish have also been known to improve the nesting sites by creating shallow depressions in the mud for the female to lay the eggs in. Marine biologists have estimated in the past the female fish will lay 1200 eggs for every pound of her body weight (which is why it is important to live release the larger fish back into the waters by practicing catch and release).
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Adult flathead catfish are most often solitary fish known to pick out a favorite spot under a tree, log or undercut bank and remain alone in deeper water. At night the flathead catfish will move into shallow water areas to feed.  Their preferred habitat is deep pools of creeks where water is cloudy and currents are very slow.

Cooking Catfish

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Catfish is delicious! The most common cooking method is deep-frying, but catfish can be grilled, baked and pan-fried with great success. Catfish has a mild, sweet flavor and is less flaky and denser than other whitefish, allowing for a variety of cooking choices. The fillet marinated in brine can also be enjoyed raw.