In the event of an identity error, the Idaho Fish and Game Company corrected its record records. The agency announced Tuesday that the catfish caught from the CJ Strike Reservoir in late July was in fact a blue catfish.
outdoor life Paul Newman’s Idaho hunt was reported on July 26. This was one day after Newman’s supposed “channel cat” had been approved as an official arrest and release record. The IDFG has since asserted that both angler and many biologists have misidentified the 42.5-inch blue catfish as a channel catfish.
However, Newman’s catch-and-release record still stands, and is now the first-ever state record for blue catfish. It also means that the record for the previous catch and release channel catfish in Idaho, which belonged to Reed Monson, will remain.
“It was a simple case of misidentification that astounded both the hunter and the biologists,” Martin Koenig, Idaho Natural Resources Program coordinator, explained in a press release. “It can be hard to tell the two species apart, especially when their color and characteristics are similar. Identifying a species by looking at a photograph can be especially difficult – even for biologists – because fine detail often differentiates two types of fish. Given the release of Fish, they can’t be closely examined.”
Another reason for the misidentification, Koenig added, is that blue catfish are very rare in Idaho. While the state regularly stocks aquatic catfish at CJ Strike and other tanks across the state, IDFG hasn’t stocked blue catfish in decades—with the last known stock in 1985.
Furthermore, IDFG biologists did not actually encounter blue catfish during fish surveys at the CJ Strike Reservoir. So when they saw pictures of the Newman’s catfish, which looks a lot like a huge channel catfish, they considered it unlikely the fish was anything other than a channel cat.
As for the origin of the blue catfish, Koenig called it a mystery. The state usually gets catfish from farms in the southeastern United States, he said, and it’s possible that a blue cat mingled with a group of channel cats bound for Idaho.
“It is also possible that a commercial catfish producer in Idaho near the Snake River may have mixed blue catfish with channel catfish,” Koenig added. “Sometimes those fish escape and make their way into public waters…so there are probably some blue catfish out there, but they are still very rare.”
As Newman demonstrated in late July, there are blue cats swimming in Idaho waters. And some are big too.
How to check the cat channel of blue cats
The blue catfish is more common in the southern and southeastern United States, while channel cats are commonly found in the central and eastern parts of the country. The biggest physical difference between blue catfish and catfish is that blues grow much larger than canals. In terms of weight and length, the largest blue cats can reach two to three times the size of the largest canal cats. According to the International Game Fish Association, the world records for blues and channels are 143 pounds and 58 pounds, respectively.
The two species can look remarkably similar, which is why it can be difficult (as it was in the case of the Newman fish) to distinguish between a huge channel cat and a great blue cat. They both come in varying shades of gray and have similar physical features, such as barbel (also known as whiskers), white bellies, and forked tails. Channel cats with spawning colors acquire a blue hue, which makes it difficult to correctly identify the species.
However, an article from Carolina Sportsman points out one major difference that allows fishermen and biologists to distinguish the two species from one another: the shape and size of the anal fin of the fish. The blue catfish has a straight anal fin with 30 to 35 supporting rays, while the channel catfish has a shorter, more rounded anal fin with 30 or fewer supporting rays.