Walking Catfish: Clarias batrachus
Elongated, gray, and scaleless catfish-type body with a large
mouth, sharp pectoral spines, and four pairs of barbels; light to
dark gray in color, but albinos occur; noted for ability to breath
air and make short overland movements by pulling themselves along
with their pectoral fins much like an infantry-man scooting under
barbed wire; early accounts that this fish would eliminate native
fishes were erroneous, and it has not had major detrimental
effects; species occasionally abundant and still considered
Most commonly encountered in Everglades and associated canals,
but also occurs throughout central and south Florida; first
reported in 1967 in Broward County and later in Hillsborough
County, now these two populations have joined; abundance has
decreased since 1970. Native range southeast Asia.
Prefers shallow and highly vegetated water bodies; sometimes
abundant in small deeper ponds without normal complement of native
fishes. They sometimes dominate small Everglades pools during the
dry season, but not necessarily to the exclusion of native fishes.
They are much less abundant in large lakes and canals, and then
usually only found in shallow vegetated areas; can live and even
thrive in water with little to no oxygen since can breathe air;
well-adapted to transient water bodies with muddy bottoms that
partially dry up seasonally; occasionally found in road storm
drainage systems from which they emerge during flooding events;
habitat preferences tend to segregate this fish thereby reducing
its overall effect on native species.
Spawning Habitats: Little known,
but reports from India indicate spawn early in rainy season when
build nests in submerged vegetation; adhesive eggs laid on
vegetation, and guarded by male.
Feeding Habits: Opportunistic
consuming a wide variety of food items including small fishes,
aquatic insects, plant material, and detritus; also scavenges on
dead fish, et al.
Age and Growth:
Fairly rapid with sizes up to about 12 inches; maximum size
about 20 inches and three pounds.
Not commonly eaten in western societies, but prized in native
range (possibly in part because they can be kept live in moist bags
for transport); no bag or size limits.
Fishing Tips and Facts:
Special Note: Possession and transportation of live walking catfish is illegal without special state and federal permits; can only be possessed dead, so anglers who want to try eating them should immediately put them on ice.