Field and Stream Guide: The Channel Catfish

•Originally found between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) has been successfully planted across the country and is now the nation's most abundant catfish species. A typical channel cat weighs less than 3 pounds. It is capable of reaching 50 pounds, with a potential life span of 40 years, but few specimens survive that long. The fish's extraordinarily keen chemoreceptive organs make it especially vulnerable to stinkbaits, and sportsmen pride themselves on their secret concoctions. --JACK LARSON

A series of pores sensitive to water displacement, the lateral line picks up frequencies below the channel cat's hearing range. This includes the slightest movements of prey, predators, and even bankside anglers. Differences in the sonic pattern on either side of the fish indicate the direction from which the signal came. Scientists believe that the channel cat's lateral line is much keener than those of other gamefish.

Taste buds are located not only in the mouth of the channel catfish but all over its body--more than 30,000 per square inch along its flanks, although the highest concentrations are in the mud-raking barbels. The channel cat is, in effect, a swimming tongue, capable of "tasting" objects from 20 feet away.

Highly convoluted tissue in the channel cat's nostrils maximizes the surface area, providing the fish with a very acute sense of smell. Its olfactory nerve has a surface 10 times larger than that of the largemouth bass.

The channel catfish uses its highly sensitive barbels to help locate food and to cautiously inspect it prior to ingestion.

The air bladder acts as a resonating chamber, amplifying sound waves and passing the vibrations to the inner ear via a tiny bone structure. This is analogous to the way a human's eardrum and inner ear bones work and elevates the fish's upper threshold of hearing to 13 times that of a bass.

Electroreceptive pores on the head allow the channel cat to home in on the weak electric field emitted by prey. The fish employs this sense to find and root up insect larvae and other invertebrates from the mud and sand of the river- or lakebed.


THE LORE: When the wind follows the sun, the next day's weather will be fair.

THE EXPERT ANALYSIS: True "The folklore describes the wind flow (east to south to west) that accompanies the passage of low pressure north of the location in question," says Paul Knight, a Penn State University meteorologist. "Since low pressure passing north of a place turns the wind in this fashion, it usually means the passage of a warm front as the winds shift from east to southwest, and then a cold front when the wind moves from southwest to northwest. Though this should bring clouds and a risk of precipitation in the short run (the day that the conditions are observed), it is generally followed by clear skies."