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Channel Catfish

Nebraska State Fish

Channel catfish swimming; artwork by Robert W. Hines / USFWS National Digital Library: Channel Catfish (public domain image).

Channel Catfish

Nebraska designated the channel catfish as the official state fish in 1997. The most numerous catfish species in North America, the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) can grow to 50 pounds or more (the world record was a channel catfish caught in South Carolina weighing 58 pounds). The average size is between 2 and 4 pounds.

The channel catfish became Nebraska's state fish thanks to the efforts of a group of fourth-graders at Valley Elementary School in Lincoln. They met with legislators and the governor, and learned about lobbying and politics. In the end the students helped get LB 106 passed which stated that acting Nebraska governors will now be solely responsible for making state symbol designations in the future. After this bill passed, Governor Nelson signed an executive order on September 13, 1997, declaring the channel catfish as the official state fish of Nebraska. Governor Nelson went on to name 8 other official symbols during his time in office including the state folk dance (square dance), the state ballad ("A Place Like Nebraska"), and the state soft drink (Kool-Aid), 

Channel catfish can be found in rivers, reservoirs, natural lakes, and ponds throughout the United States. Omnivores with a very keen sense of smell and taste, a channel catfish actually has taste buds distributed over the entire surface of its body, especially concentrated on the 4 pairs of barbels (whiskers) surrounding the mouth. These sharp senses allow the channel catfish to find food in dark or muddy water.