Channel cats are most abundant in eastern Oregon, primarily in the Columbia and Snake rivers and their impoundments, Owyhee Reservoir, the Owyhee River and the John Day River.
Features: Channel catfish are pale bluish-olive above and bluish-white below with a deeply forked tail, dorsal and pectoral spines, and an adipose fin. Like all other catfish, channel catfish have “whiskers” or barbels extending from the chin and upper jaw. Young fish have a varying number of small black spots over much of the body, while older fish may be partially or entirely without spots. Maximum size in Oregon approaches 40 pounds, but most are less than 10 pounds.
Habitat: Channel catfish in western Oregon are limited to the Columbia River, lower Willamette River, and a few ponds in the Willamette Valley. They are much more abundant in eastern Oregon, primarily in the Columbia and Snake rivers and their impoundments, Owyhee Reservoir, the Owyhee River, and the John Day River. When given the choice, channel catfish prefer clear lakes and streams, but they can tolerate moderately muddy water if food is abundant. Channel catfish are not particular about what they eat. Included in their diet are fish and frogs, either alive or dead, insects, plant material, crayfish, worms, or snails.
Technique: Channel catfish are found near cover such as debris, logs, cavities, boulders and cut banks in the warmest parts of lakes and rivers. They seek cavities near shore, usually in 6 to 12 feet of water, in which to spawn when the water temperature reaches 70°F. In rivers, adult channel catfish are found in the larger pools and deeper holes.
Channel catfish are most active in late evening, but feed during the daylight hours more than other catfish species. Although usually caught on bait, they will occasionally take a lure. Fish on the bottom using a slip-sinker and bait rig with size 4 or 6 bait hook. Bait with worms, strips of fish belly, liver, or a commercially prepared “stink” bait. When handling catfish be careful to avoid the spines in the fins. Channel catfish are excellent eating, the flesh being white, firm, and relatively boneless.