(3.5) FISH and/or FISHING - Channel Catfish of the Ocklawaha River, Florida

Channel Catfish of the Ocklawaha River, Florida

An Information, Opinion, Photos, & Sources Report

Compiled by Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca

With the assistance of Captain Erika Ritter

Created: 20 May 2015

Last Revised: 31 October 2015

The First Four Photographs For This Webpage

Were Graciously Provided by the

Parramore Family of

Eureka, Marion County, Florida

Who Have Lived Near the Ocklawaha River

Since the Late 1860's

After Moving from Southern Georgia

Channel catfish

Channel catfish

Channel catfish

Channel catfish



The Ocklawaha River was known in the past for containing some of the biggest channel catfish in Florida.

A 42-pound 3-ounce CHANNEL CATFISH was caught from the middle Ocklawaha River upstream of Rodman Reservoir in 1978. It was 41.5 inches long with a girth of 27.5 inches. This catch was the certified state record channel catfish until 1985.

And even bigger / heavier channel catfish have been reportedly taken from the Ocklawaha River --

Maybe even 54 to 96 pounds!



CHANNEL CATFISH (Ictalurus punctatus) and WHITE CATFISH (Ameiurus catus) are stream-current-oriented native freshwater species that migrate many miles in river systems searching for food and suitable spawning sites. In late spring or early summer massive "runs" of these catfish from the larger St. Johns spawn in the lower Ocklawaha River blocked by Kirkpatrick (Rodman) Dam from proceeding any further upstream. Without a steady current in the Cross Florida Barge Canal to guide them back and forth through the Buckman Lock -- which is their only available St. Johns River / Rodman Reservoir portal -- a much smaller number of channel and white catfish (compared to pre-1968 standards) travel between the St. Johns and the middle Ocklawaha at Eureka or beyond to Silver River / Silver Springs or up to Moss Bluff on the upper Ocklawaha.

Moody (1963) in a Florida Wildlife magazine article:

"Some of these fish [largemouth bass] were found to have traveled more than 100 miles from Lake George."

"Observations indicate that channel and white catfishes also move considerable distances, usually in schools."

Martin (1966) book chapter (pages 194-196) by Ross Allen:

"Channel catfish attract more attention at Silver Springs than any other fish. They are numerous, particularly around the deep spring holes, where they can be seen maintaining a position by swimming against the current. Large blue-black fish that attain a weight of 40 to 50 pounds, they have broad heads and thick cheeks and some 'old timers' have white spots on top of their heads...Many of these large catfish are seen in a deep spring hole which is called 'Catfish Hotel, with running water in every room'"

"The white catfish, oddly enough, is not white in Silver Springs but is dark blue in color. Hundreds of them congregate in the Catfish Hotel, and may be seen in other spots hiding under logs or resting quietly on the bottom."

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (2003a) webpage about channel catfish:

"Habitat - Most common in big rivers and streams. Prefers some current, and deep water with sand, gravel or rubble bottoms."

"Spawning Habits - Spawning occurs mostly in rivers and streams in the spring and early summer when waters warm to 70 to 85 degrees."

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (2003b) webpage about white catfish:

"Range - In Florida, they are found statewide in rivers and streams..."

"Habitat - Usually found in slow-moving streams..."

"Spawning Habits...Spawning occurs in the early summer when waters reach about 70 degrees."

Munch et al. (2007):

"Conduct a study for channel catfish. Channel catfish should be experimentally radiotagged and placed in the Silver River to monitor habitat use and movement. Such a study would reveal factors influencing the decline in channel catfish in the system."

"Catfish and mullet were present in high abundance in Silver Springs fifty years ago and had largely disappeared during Knight's 1978-79 study and also were observed in low abundance in the current study."

"This evaluation of fish species documented a change in the dominant fish species from mullet and catfish to gizzard shad...These changes were attributed to the construction of Rodman Dam downstream on the Ocklawaha River."


Note: Both channel catfish and white catfish are often mistakenly called "blue catfish" in this area

Channel catfish

Channel catfish

Channel catfish


Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2003a. "Channel Catfish" webpage. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL.

http://floridafisheries.com/fishes/catfish.html (Available as a hardcopy printed 2/7/03).

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2003b. "White Catfish" webpage. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL.

http://floridafisheries.com/fishes/catfish.html (Available as a hardcopy printed 2/7/03).

Martin, R. A. 1966. Eternal spring. Man's 10,000 Years of History at Florida's Silver Springs. "Chapter 9 - The Fishes of Silver Springs" by Ross Allen. Florida’s Silver Springs, Inc. (1966). Great Outdoors Press, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL. 264 pp. Available as a hardcopy book.

Moody, H. 1963. "Fishing and boating facts: The St. Johns River" article. Florida Wildlife magazine (August 1963, page 21-27). Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee, FL. Available as a hardcopy.

Munch, D. A.; D. J. Toth, C. Huang, J. B. Davis, C. M. Fortich, W. L. Osburn, E. J. Phlips, E. L. Quinlan, M. S. Allen, M. J. Woods, P. Cooney, R. L. Knight, R. A. Clarke and S. L. Knight. 2007. Fifty-year retrospective study of the ecology of Silver Springs, Florida. Special publication SJ2007-SP4. St. Johns River Water Management District, Palatka, FL.

http://www.sjrwmd.com/technicalreports/pdfs/SP/SJ2007-SP4.pdf (last accessed 12/11/11).





REFERENCE AS: Nosca, P. 2015. "Channel catfish of the Ocklawaha River, Florida" webpage report. "Ocklawahaman Paul Nosca reports" website. Paul Nosca, Eureka, FL.


Email: ocklawahaman1@gmail.com