What's In A Name??
Galen Jons, Fisheries Biologist
What's in a name? If you ask an angler what they call a flathead catfish, you're likely to get a half-dozen different answers depending on what part of the country you're in. The same holds true for blue and channel catfish. Of course, this phenomenon isn't limited to just catfish, as many different species have many different names, depending on who you ask.
Following is a short list of some common names given to some of the different fishes of Texas. Note that this list is not all inclusive, as it is hard to track every single name people have for these fish:
Flathead catfish: yellow cat, Opelousas, appaloosa,, appaluchion, goujon, pinto, shovelhead, mudcat, johnnie cat.
Blue catfish: highfin (hi-fin) blue, government blue, highfin government blue, humpback blue, Mississippi blue, blue channel, great blue, forktail, silver cat, blue fulton, chucklehead.
Channel catfish: chucklehead, charlie, fiddler cat, willow cat, spotted cat, blue channel, river catfish.
Bullheads catfish (black, yellow, brown): Mudcats, polliwogs, butter cats, greasers, horned pout, red cats.
Freshwater drum: gaspergou
Bowfin: dogfish, choupique (shoo-pick), grinnell, grindle, mudfish, mud pike, blackfish, cottonfish, swamp bass, cypress trout.
Sunfish: often called perch, sunperch, or bream, a few selected species
Crappie (black and white): papermouth, calico bass, specks, bachelor perch, strawberry bass, white perch.
Largemouth bass: black bass, bigmouth bass, bucketmouth, Oswego bass, green bass, green trout, Florida, northern (note: you cannot tell the difference between Florida and northern bass by appearance alone).
White bass: sand bass, sandies, silver bass, stripe, striper, barfish.
By the same token, many anglers in Texas and surrounding areas refer to sunfish as perch. Normally, this isn't a problem. However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife has stocked actual perch (yellow perch) into
some Texas waters, and these fish are very different from the sunfish "perch" that most Texans are familiar with.
Biologists often refer to fish by their scientific name, the Latin genus and species name given for each fish. A few examples of these are:
Channel catfish: Ictalurus punctatus
Although these names look confusing, they help biologists from around the world understand what species other biologists are referring to. This naming convention allows standardization of names to help further the study of fish biology.
No one expects anglers to learn all of the scientific names for all kinds of fish. It is important, however, to be aware that various names may exist for the same fish, and even the same name for different fish! So, the next time you read a fishing report that says stripers are biting well, be aware that they could be talking about one of two different fish.
Good Luck and Good Fishing!
Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept.
5325 N. 3rd
Abilene, TX 79603
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