The catfish family (Ictaluridae SPP.) is represented
by 37 species, all in North America.
However, when most people think of catfish, they are usually referring to the three largest members of the family: channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus), and flathead catfish (Pylodictus olivaris). The channel catfish has traditionally been the species most commonly stocked into ponds. The reasons for the popularity of channel catfish are varied and many. They are easy to catch, attain large sizes, readily train to artificial feed, adapt well to almost any environment, and make fine table fare. Also, catfish generally do not reproduce well in ponds that contain bass, so they are not likely to overpopulate; provided they are stocked at a low density.
The common belief about catfish is that ol' Mr. Whiskers scavenges off the pond's bottom and will eat just about anything that he can swallow. So what do catfish eat?
While it is true that catfish are not picky eaters, most pond owners do not realize how they compete with bass and bluegill for food. Catfish in a pond will eat things that are dead and alive, including minnows and insects. They also can be voracious around automated fish feeders. If you aggressively harvest catfish, they aren't terrible additions to your pond's fish community. The problem with catfish is that they get quite large. And their appetites grow right along with them. So they keep growing, often at the expense of bass and bluegill. Our philosophy on catfish is this: If you really like to fish for catfish, stock them in low numbers and harvest them before they get too big.