The white catfish has a native range from New York southward through most of Florida along the Atlantic Coast. They have been introduced into the mid-west and the west coast. While white catfish are found in fresh water lakes and rivers, they are primarily a tidal water species, tolerating salinity levels to five percent. Standing or slow-moving waters with sandy, silty or muddy substrates are preferred.
White catfish belong to the bullhead family. Coloration is generally blue-gray above, turning gray on sides with a white belly. The tail is moderately forked with rounded ends. The upper jaw extends slightly beyond the lower. While white catfish are sometimes mistaken for the channel catfish, the head is broader, and the anal fin is shorter and more rounded. Further the chin barbells are white. White catfish seldom get much over five pounds and two feet long.
Spawning occurs in early summer when water temperatures reach 68 to 72 degrees. They fan out large, shallow bowl-like nests in sand or gravel. Females deposit one to two thousand eggs and both guard them until they hatch in approximately one week. Males may remain close to the fry until they stop schooling and disperse.
Fish comprise a major part of their diet, but whites also feed on larval aquatic insects, small crustaceans, fish eggs and aquatic plants. Unlike other catfish they are aggressive daytime feeders.
White Catfish in Florida
The following is courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
Appearance: Sides are blue-gray to blue-black and may be mottled. The tail is moderately forked, and the anal fin is shorter and rounder than that of channel or blue catfish.
Habitat: Found statewide in rivers and streams and in slightly brackish coastal waters.
Behavior: Although fish are their major food, whites also eat larval aquatic insects, small crustaceans, fish eggs and aquatic plants. They may feed at night, but are not as nocturnal as other catfish.
State Record: 18.8 lbs. Big Catch: 22 inches or 5 lbs.