Catfish

There are more than 3,000 species of catfish around the globe, and they range in size from the tiny banjo catfish of South America to the gigantic Mekong catfish of southeast Asia.
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Where and When?

Catfish are adaptable and do well in a variety of water types, from warm, shallow ponds to deep lakes and fast-flowing rivers. Different species will be found in different habitats and regions. In general, during the day catfish will seek out deep, murky, or muddy water. Look for catfish in deep holes, drop-offs, and deeper sections of river bends, in muddy areas such as outflows, or areas of standing timber. Most catfish are more active at night, and will move onto flats, along shorelines, or into weedy areas to feed after dark.

About Catfish

Named for their catlike “whiskers,” which are really barbels, catfish are found in the waters of every continent except Antarctica. They are freshwater fish, although a few have adapted to saltwater environments, and one, the Asian walking catfish, can actually breathe air for short periods as it walks across land. Catfish have large, flat heads, and broad bodies covered with smooth (rather than scaly) skin coated with mucus and covered with olfactory sensors. Catfish are bottom feeders, and most are negatively buoyant. Catfish can grow very large. The largest catfish ever caught was a 646-pound, 9-foot-long Mekong catfish caught in northern Thailand; it is thought that this is not only the largest catfish ever caught, but the largest freshwater fish ever recorded. Other extremely large catfish species include the piraiba of South America, which can grow as large as 440 pounds; the wels catfish of Eurasia; and the Goonch of India. In North America, the largest catfish are blue catfish (the record was a 130-pounder caught in the Missouri River), and the flathead catfish (a 123-pounder was caught in Kansas).

How to Catch?

Catfishing is typically done with live bait or dead bait, but scented artificial baits often work. Present them near the bottom with a slip-sinker rig, with or without a float, or attach bait to a jig head and then lift and drop it along the bottom. Popular catfish baits include crayfish, chicken livers, nightcrawlers, shrimp, white suckers, skipjack herring, live or frozen gizzard shad, minnows, dough balls, or stink bait. Because catfish are so widely distributed, their favorite foods depend on the location, so check with local anglers to find out what works best. Remember, catfish grow big and fight hard, so use strong tackle and have a large landing net available.