Catfish are a predominately ground dwelling fish that are found in every continent around the world. They are a scaleless species with most exhibiting prominent whiskers (called barbels) that resemble a cat – hence the name. They range from extremely large Mekong Giant catfish to much smaller species that can be found in domestic aquariums.
In terms of habitat, most are bottom feeders who will eat pretty much anything they can find from weeds and grasses, moss and other fish – alive or dead. They also live in both salt and freshwater – in fact some can actually switch between both and still live.
Catfish form part of the Siluriformes order and are recognized by a large array of different subspecies as follows:
- Scoloplacidae (Loricarioidei)
- Akysidae (Sisoroidea)
- Amblycipitidae (Sisoroidea)
- Anchariidae (Arioidea)
- Ariidae (Arioidea)
- Amphiliidae (Big African catfishes)
- Austroglanididae (Arioidea)
- Chacidae (Siluroidei)
- Conorhynchos (Pimelodoidea)
- Cranoglanididae (Ictaluroidea)
- Heteropneustidae (Clarioidea)
- Horabagridae (Sisoroidea)
- Kryptoglanidae (Siluroidea)
- Lacantuniidae (Big African catfishes)
- Malapteruridae (Big African catfishes)
- Phreatobiidae (Pimelodoidea)
- Rita (Sisoroidea)
- Schilbeidae (Big African catfishes)
- Ictaluridae (North American Catfish)
Where are Catfish Found
As above, members of the Catfish family can be found the world over (except Antarctica) and can be found in lakes, rivers, estuaries and even the ocean. They feed on the bottom in all water conditions which is good as they are generally not able to float anyway.
What Do Catfish Look Like?
Catfish are generally distinguished by their large, flat heads and barbels hanging from their mouths. However due to the sheer size of their subspecies range, they can be found with large variations in size, fin placement and shapes with some even posses a venomous sting.
Their size range is also extremely large from up to 2.5 meters in length down to only a couple of millimeters. Catfish are also known to produce sounds such as drumming or ‘scraping’ when in danger or looking for a fight.
How Do Catfish Breed?
Due to the vast range of species lifespan is also just as versatile. Typical catfish found on the fishing grounds of North America however are known to live for around 15 years.
Catfish spawn in the summer by swimming together and releasing the eggs and sperm at the same time into a nest.
What do Catfish Eat?
As above, Catfish are bottom feeders who in all honesty will actually eat anything they can find. In their natural habitats however this usually includes:
- Plant material
World Record Size
The largest reported Channel catfish caught was 58 pounds in 1964. The largest species, the Mekong Catfish was caught in the Mekong river at 9 feet in length, weighing 646 pounds.
Catfish Fishing Seasons
Catfish can be caught all year round as follows:
- Winter – As with many species, Catfish tend to slow down in winter and do not feed as aggressively or as often. This is not to say however they cannot be caught – especially in shallower areas where the water is warmer. In terms of lures etc., avid catfishers will tell you to slow your retrieve speed down during the colder months.
- Spring – As the water temperature increases after winter, Catfish will start to actively start to feed and prepare nests as they get ready for the Summer spawn. This time of year can be tricky for fishers however as Catfish tend to move around a lot if there are large variations water temperature.
- Summer – Summer is when Catfish spawn, and again like most fish will feed actively in the ‘pre-spawn’ period. Once spawning is over, females leave the nest and will start to feed again. If the weather is hot, best fishing is done at night.
- Autumn – Autumn is considered another great period for Catfishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the water is cooling after the summer heat bringing the fish out of the depths and secondly, they are fattening up for winter. As with Spring however, Catfish will move around a lot if water temperature changes are unstable.
It should be noted here that many jurisdictions implement seasonal restrictions and well as licensing and bag limit regulations as well.
Best Gear For Catching Catfish
Many Catfish fishers use both spinning and baitcaster reels effectively and successfully. In general, to catch Catfish you will need:
Spinning reel – 4000 – 5000 – lined with mono or braid
Baitcaster reel – 100 – 400 – lined with mono or braid
Rod – around 7ft and matching of reel size
Can You Eat Catfish?
Although some avoid due to their bottom feeding eating habits, Catfish can definitely be eaten and in fact is a popular table fish – even considered a delicacy in some countries. It is best sourced from farms rather than murky lakes and if eating from the wild, ensure that they have been caught in clean water.
The meat is generally white (some are orange) and is low in calories with nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.
As per most white meated species, they are best eaten by filleting and then:
- Pan frying
- Deep frying
They cannot however be eaten raw.
Check out some more information in regards to eating Catfish here.