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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Stonecat - Noturus flavus

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

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General Description
The stonecat is one of two native catfish species in the state. It is widespread throughout all of eastern Montana, preferring to live in cracks and crevices of rocks and logs in streams, rivers or on wave-swept shorelines of lakes. Like other catfish, it is an early-summer nest-building spawner. Stonecats seldom exceed 8-10 inches in length and thus do not provide a sport fishery. They are, however, renowned for inflicting a nasty sting on those who handle them and are unfortunate enough to be poked by the spines on their pectoral or dorsal fins.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Overall yellowish brown; back darker, underside light yellow or white. Tail is rectangular and not forked. Adipose fin merges into the caudal peduncule and not separated like a bullhead or channel catfish.

Species Range
Montana Range


Western Hemisphere Range


Range Comments
This species is widespread throughout all of eastern Montana rivers and is expanding it's range up colder trout rivers and streams that may be warming and more suitable for colonization (Madison, Smith, Missouri Rivers)

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1170

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Swift-water areas of streams among rocks or under logs; also lakes over sand and gravel bottom where there is wave action. Found mainly in flowing water over rocky substrates in lower Yellowstone River drainage study. Also found in riffle habitat in middle Missouri River study.

Food Habits
Largely aquatic insects and small fish. Known to eat spawn of other fishes.

Probably an important benthic insect eater in large rivers and may be a prey fish for nocturnal predators such as walleye and sauger, or large brown trout in cool water systems.

Reproductive Characteristics
Spawns June - Aug. in moderate current. Incubation: 1 - 2 weeks. Young guarded by parents. Spawning peaks late June.

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Citation for data on this website:
Stonecat — Noturus flavus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from