Catfish 101: Types Of Catfish And How To Identify Them?

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What is a Catfish

Catfish are the most popular species because of having cat-type whiskers around their mouth. This is because they are such a unique species and well known due to their freakish shape and qualities.

Therefore, many anglers like to fish catfish mostly as they are big and sometimes challenging.

There are usually three primary types of catfish: blue catfish, flathead catfish, and channel catfish. These three types of catfish have different qualities and preferences.

According to many professional anglers, it is not so difficult to catch a catfish because catfish are such foodies that they eat almost everything they offer.

So, whatever you throw to lure them, whether alive or dead, they will eat that. Therefore, it becomes easy to catch a catfish. However, it is just not as easy as it sounds (in handling them) because catfish are brutal fighters.

Following is some of the important information about catfish that would help you to fish.

What Is A Catfish?

Catfish name refers to the long antennae or tentacles located around the fish’s mouth, similar to a cat’s whiskers. All catfish have at least one pair of tentacles on the upper jaw; you can also see one pair on the face and one on the chin.

In addition, many catfish have spines in front of their dorsal and pectoral fins. These thorns may be related to poison glands and may cause pain and harm to unsuspecting fish.

image of a catfish

Catfish belong to the order of Siluriformes of bony fishes. Most species of catfish have no scales, although a thick, hard armored shell covers some species.

Catfish are usually very hardy, and some species can survive for a while without water as long as their skin remains moist due to the outer mucus.

Catfishes vary differently in size. For example, small catfish such as micro cats, dwarf Corydoras, and C. hastatus are 4 or 5 centimeters long. In contrast, large-sized catfish are 4.5 meters (15 feet) in length and 300 kilograms (660 pounds) in weight.

Certain species of catfish are found in the ocean, such as dried sea catfish found in tropical and subtropical waters and temperate waters in summer.

Freshwater catfish are found almost worldwide, living in various habitats, from slow or stagnant waters to turbulent mountain streams; sea catfish live in tropical coastal waters.

Catfish usually live on the ocean floor and are more active at night than during the day. Most of them are scavengers and feed on almost any type of animal or plant.

Related reading: Bass Fish 101: Facts, Habitat, Bass Spawn – (Tips & Everything)

What Do Catfish Like To Eat?

Catfish are also known as scavengers; therefore, they are not too picky for food. Catfish feed on almost every type of plant and animal. However, the food of a catfish also depends on its type.

For example, as you know, Catfish are scavengers and eat any living or dead objects on the surface. But, since they are smaller than many fish species, they go for smaller prey.

Therefore, small insects, crabs, small fish-all of these are included in the catfish diet.

image of a catfish eating

When catfish are little, they have to eat a suitably sized diet. As they are growing up, they start to eat small invertebrates.

Usually, a young catfish can feed on anything that has a backbone, such as young crayfish. A young catfish is generally picky in food.

Channel catfish is the most likely of the three main species. Channel cats feed on insects and small invertebrates, fish, snails, mollusks, and even small mammals if they can catch them.

Channel catfish don’t care whether their food is alive or dead.

Moreover, they can also eat plants without meat or living tissue. Things like fruits or berries that fall into the water are natural prey. So catfish also eat some aquatic plants.

Related Guide: Salmon Fish 101 – Biography, Tips, Tricks & Facts In 2023!

Best Time To Catch Catfish?

To catch a catfish, you have to find the perfect time. As every professional angler knows to capture any fish species, time and season play an important role.

Therefore, I am sharing the best time and season to make your fishing experience more exciting.

image of catfish hanging to fishing rod

In Spring:

Spring is the same as autumn, depending on what time of year you are fishing. As for the catfish in early spring, soon after the ice melts or the last frosty night, the catfish are available.

Compared with evening and morning, you may catch more catfish in the middle and late afternoon. This is because as the water temperature rises, the catfish becomes more active.

Moreover, you can catch catfish at noon but tend to be in deeper water.

In Summer:

In summer, it is best to catch catfish at night actively. So about an hour before sunset and 2 hours after sunset in the evening seemed to be a perfect window of time.

During that time, catfishes crawl out of the deeper holes. They spent the day and climbed to the bay peacefully, looking for bluegills, perch, and tarpon. So it is your best shot at catching them.

In Autumn:

The catfish began to form groups and enter hunting mode. It is amazing to catch catfish from dusk to dawn because catfish will look for food and “find your bait.”

In late autumn, the water temperature drops sharply and becomes colder. So, you can fish in the afternoon. Use live bait or cut bait for these fish—the flatheads and bluecat fish.

Moreover, early autumn is one of the best times to catch a lot of catfish.

In Winter:

In winter, the catfish try to keep warm, which means they will curl up at the bottom of the deepest hole near the lakes and the mouths of streams. So if you catch a catfish in the winter, there will be dirt on its belly.

Therefore, the best time to catch winter catfish is probably from early morning to dusk because they feed at this time. It will give you a good result, and you’ll get hold of a lot of fish.

Related reading: Carolina Rig 101: How To Setup Rig And Catch More Fish?

Can You Eat The Catfish?

Yes, you can eat catfish. Catfish is not safely eaten only if it is undercooked. Catfish is low in calories and rich in beneficial nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Including it in your regular diet can help you improve your overall health.

Catfish is one of the most popular and delicious fish, which can be enjoyed at home or in a restaurant. Whether you like the natural taste of wild catfish or the sweet taste of farm-raised catfish, it is entirely up to you.

So, preheat your grill and pick up the cutlery to enjoy delicious dishes that will keep you full.

How Long Do Catfish Live?

The lifespan of catfish is usually between 80 and 100 years, but of course, not all catfish can live that long. Catfish are considered the largest freshwater predators. The weight of catfish is about 150-300 kg.

Due to their appearance, catfish are easily distinguished from other fish. It has a huge mouth, two big beady eyes, and a very big head around it.

image of a catfish outside the water

However, catfish can live for 8 to 20 years, while the Mekong giant catfish can be over 60 years old. There are approximately 3000 species of catfish globally, but it is believed that there are about 4500 species.

The Mekong giant catfish is the largest catfish species. It can grow up to 10 feet and weigh up to 650 pounds. It belongs to the shark catfish family and is critically endangered.

Moreover, some catfish can live 15 to 18 hours without water, and some can’t even live for several hours. However, it is well known that many catfish can survive for hours without water.

Catfish live in rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, underground caves, and shallow waters. They are high-yielding breeders, and under optimal conditions, certain species can lay as many as 100,000 eggs at a time.

More reading: Bluegill Fish 101 – Complete Guide & Tips To Learn Everything!

Different Types Of Catfish

There are generally three types of catfish that humans have discovered. The different types of catfish have other qualities in them; their likes and dislikes are different.

So, let’s look at the details of types of catfish to know more about them.

Blue Catfish:

Blue catfish is the largest catfish that you can find in North America. The other names of blue catfish are high fin blue, Mississippi white catfish, Hump-back blue, hi-fin blue, and blues.

Ictalurus means “catfish” in Greek, and Furcatus means “forked” in Latin. The tail of the blue catfish is forked, sometimes very similar to the channel catfish.

image of blue catfish

However, only the population of Rio Grande has black spots on their backs and sides. The number of rays on the anal fin is usually 30 to 35 cm, and the color of the back is generally slate blue and white on the abdomen.

The spawning act of blue catfish is similar to channel catfish: however, they both are different in every quality. The blue catfish mature when they reach a length of 24 inches.

Blue catfish have a diverse diet, but they tend to eat fish at an earlier age. Although invertebrates still make up the majority of the diet, it is well known that blue catfish can eat fish up to 4 inches long.

The blue catfish is mainly a larger fish that lives in large river systems’ main canals, tributaries, and reservoirs. They migrate upstream in summer to find cooler temperatures and migrate downstream in winter to find warm water.

The blues originate from the major rivers in the basins of Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi. The distribution area also extends south to Texas and Mexico and north to Guatemala.

Texas does not exist in the northwestern part of Texas, including the narrow strip, but it exists elsewhere in larger rivers.

The blues grow rapidly and are estimated to live for 20-30 years.

Fishers often look for them, not only because of their size but also because of their struggling nature. They are known for being good at resisting and which makes them interesting for anglers.

As soon as the fisherman thinks a bluefish is on the hook, he will catch it immediately. Not only because of its size but also because it is a fantastic fish to catch and favorable for business.

You can choose a fake bait, but most anglers prefer to fish with live bait or fresh bait. You can flavor baiting with a strong smell, so anglers who use freshly cut bait tend to catch huge fish.

Blue catfish is a highly adaptable breeder, usually feeding on shoals of striped bass or white bass, foraging tarpon, or other injured baitfish.

Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis Olivares):

Flathead catfish is the most common type of catfish in the United States. They are known for reaching the trophy level and are also excellent table food.

The current world record for flathead catfish weighs 123 pounds. The other names of flathead catfish are Shovelhead Cat, Yellow Cat, Appaloosa Catfish, Pied Cat, Opp, and Opelousa Catfish.

Pylodictis means “loach” in Greek, and Olivares means “olive” in Latin, apparently due to this species’ deep olive and yellow complexion.

image of Flathead Catfish

Their backs and sides are usually light yellows to light brown, and this color is also severely mottled with the additional coloration of black and brown. The underside is generally light cream or yellowish. Chicks are usually dark brown.

As the name suggests, flathead catfish have a flat head. However, it does have smooth skin, long sharp spines on the back and sides, and bristles around the mouth.

Flathead catfish can quickly grow to three to four feet in length and weigh more than one hundred pounds.

Flathead catfish like to eat worms, invertebrates, and crayfish. However, when they grow up, their size depends on their diet.

The spawning season usually lasts from May to August, when the water temperature is between 75 and 80 degrees. The female catfish can lay up to 10,000 eggs in one season.

The adult flathead catfish is usually a solitary animal known for occupying its favorite places under felled trees, trunks, or benches and staying only in deeper water.

At night, the flathead catfish will enter the shallow water for food. However, its preferred habitat is deep water and slow currents.

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus Punctatus):

Ictalurus is Greek, and Punctatus in Latin means catfish and speck. If little attention is paid to the special characteristics of this species, channel catfish can be easily distinguished from blue catfish and flat catfish.

Channel catfish have a deep forktail, similar to blue catfish, but the color is very different from blue.

image of Channel Catfish

Because of the color, inexperienced anglers often mistake channel catfish for flathead catfish; however, the canal has a deeply forked tail (rather than a small gap) and a protruding upper jaw (rather than a lower jaw).

Channel catfish are usually olive-brown to slate, even blue and gray, sometimes on both sides. It does not exist in larger fish. Anal fins have 24-29 rays (compared to 30 or more blue catfish).

The spawn time of channel catfish is early summer when water temperatures reach 75 degrees and late spring. They are usually picked in dark, isolated places, such as piles of rocks or dikes, logs, trees, trimmed riverbanks, etc.

The eggs are laid on the bottom of the best eggs, and the males protect the nest. If disturbed, the canal catfish can actually eat some eggs.

Channel catfish is one of the most popular fish in the United States, second only to perch in many areas.

Part of the reason for their popularity is that they are indeed a good meal and because they are full and, in most cases, readily available on lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

A variety of baits can be used to catch channel catfish, including natural baits such as maggots, baits, crabs, or other natural baits, but the most popular is catfish bait as percussion bait, diving bait, and soap bait.

The bait is mixed with sour cereals such as wheat or milk or uses kitchen cubes as an additive.

Best Time To Go For It

It won’t be wrong to say that catfish are a foodie species. They like to eat all day and night—however, there is some perfect time to catch them. So, to know what time would be the best to catch the catfish, continue reading!

Catfish love to bite all day and night: however, certain timings are perfect when anglers are most successful. This “prime time” also depends on the season and weather conditions.

image of The Catfish underwater

So, the best time to catch catfish is from 1 hour before sunset to 2 hours after sunrise in the three seasons. In winter, it is from early morning to before sunset.

Moreover, there aren’t any hard and fast rules, but you will find the most active and hungry catfish constantly biting into those timings.

How To Catch Catfish?

As we all know, catfish are hard fighters; therefore, you should know how to catch them. You have to prepare your tackle box according to the need and situations.

As the equipment that you required to catch a catfish is not so expensive. Hence, make sure to keep all the necessary tools with yourself.

image of a person trying to catch the catfish

All you need is:

  • Medium 6’to 7’spinning rods and spools that are made of abrasion-resistant and a strong monofilament.
  • Shore and boat style rod holder
  • long-nosed pliers
  • Terminal tackle includes 1/0 to 3/0 circle or baits hooks, # 2 to #6 treble hooks, 0.5- to 2-ounce egg sinkers, split shots, #7 to #10 swivels, bobbers, etc. beads, and jig heads.
  • Cut bait, artificial bait, or live and dead worms.


Step One:

Some anglers get along well with bait; most catfish anglers prefer live bait. Small fish, bait, liver, grasshoppers, nightcrawlers, and even hot dogs are very effective.

Step Two:

Three hooks may be more suitable for carrying bait such as liver or cheese, but round hooks effectively catch and release.

Step Three:

Check your cast and remove the other rod from the two. Use the pole holder, first pull it out so that the pole does not suddenly disappear in the lake, and then stop on a comfortable rock, and you’re done.

Step Four:

As we all know, from late spring to early autumn, the catfish roam in shallow water at night, but don’t let it stop you during the day.

The great thing about this popular fish is that it is almost always hungry and ready to eat during the day. So, throw your lure, cast smoothly, and grab your catch!

How To Identify A Catfish?

Catfish looks so different from the other fish species. They are covered with fur instead of scales and barbells around their mouths, making them easy to spot.

All members of the catfish family have tentacles around their mouths, similar to a cat’s whiskers. They use these tentacles to explore the surrounding environment for food.

image of a Catfish being held by a person

For example, they like the bottom of the lake and chew on anything that blocks them.

They are also one of the few species that have skin instead of scales. Due to their size and strength, catfish are becoming more and more popular with amateur anglers.

Throw them into the deep fryer, and you will immediately understand why there are so many fishermen in the world.

With excellent taste and combat, they are an attractive sport fish. Just make sure you learn how to handle them properly.

How Fast Do Catfish Grow?

The growth of catfish depends on the food and sources they can have. The farmed catfish and other catfish have different lifestyles; therefore, it mostly depends on the availability of food sources. Farmed catfish can reach 1 pound at 18 months.

The time required for other catfish species (such as flathead catfish and blue catfish) to reach full size in rivers, ponds, and streams depends on the climate, the availability of food sources, and the body of water in which they live.

Tips And Tricks For Catfish Fishing:

image of a small catfish stuck with a hook

Following are some of the tips and tricks for catfish.


During the day, you should look at deep wells and deep waters. These will always be the best places to seek and find hungry catfish in the river actively.

Deepwater and rivers are the critical points for detecting channels, blue-headed catfish, and flathead catfish.

Proper Equipment:

  • Proper equipment is essential to be successful in catfish fishing. Therefore, you have to prepare your tackle box with every crucial piece of equipment.

Using Technology:

  • Don’t neglect technology when it comes to catching cats, especially river fishing.
  • You have no choice but to help you hunt and find the perfect fishing spot.
  • Catfish are clever and cunning creatures; they like to hide. Therefore, technology can help you find structures and other deep holes that may contain large catfish.

Selection of Bait:

  • Determine the size of the catfish you want to attack.
  • If your goal is catfish over 10 pounds, consider using live bait and cutting bait, such as sea carp. However, if you are counting and trying to catch as many catfish as possible, and the size does not matter, you can consider all bait.

Learn Underwater Movements:

  • If you don’t like the technique of finding the best catfish habitat, you can also learn to recognize the movement of water.
  • In a river, you can sometimes look for water that moves from left to right.
  • At the end of this stream, the water is calm, which can indicate the deepest and sharpest part of the water or a beautiful “trap.”
  • Catfish like to swim in these deeper waters at the edges of streams and flowing waterways.
  • At the end of the choppy water, catfish wanders around. So, that is the best place.

Final Verdict:

Catfish are one of the most popular species globally. The unique qualities and appearance of catfish can never be neglected. Catfish are foodies, but it is also considered a hard fighter that is sometimes challenging for many professional anglers.

If you want something delicious to eat and challenging to catch, then catfish can become your preference. Moreover, the types of catfish have various characteristics to choose your target according to your mood and taste.

Hopefully, the above information would help you to know every important detail about catfish. So, go catfish fishing and enjoy your catfish meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – Why is catfish dangerous?

When your diet contains a lot of catfish, your diet contains more omega-6s than protective omega-3s.

This is because catfish contains very little mercury, which is very toxic to the human body, and large amounts of it can damage our nervous system.

#2 – Can catfish hurt you?

The toxin of catfish, such as venom from their dorsal and pectoral spines, can cause a menacing.

However, these strings are often harmless, but due to this, severe tissue necrosis may occur. But, if you eat it in limited quantity, then it is not harmful.

#3 – Why is catfish banned?

The health authorities banned catfish, saying that this invasive species may threaten the local ecology.

Although the breeding and cultivation of this species was previously prohibited, some farms have reserved protected areas and rights to catfish farming.

#4 – Can catfish cause cancer?

Catfish extract caught in contaminated waters can cause breast cancer cells to proliferate.

A new study shows that exposing estrogen-sensitive breast cancer cells to fish extracts captured in areas with large amounts of sewage and industrial waste can cause cell proliferation.

#5 – Is catfish poisonous to eat?

Catfish contain a minimal amount of mercury that is poisonous to the human body, and if you consume catfish in large quantities, it can damage the nervous system at a quick rate.

#6 – Do saltwater catfish have poison?

Whether sea catfish or saltwater catfish, catfish bites cannot be ignored because they are poisonous and can cause serious infections. Take appropriate safety precautions to minimize the risk of bites.

#7 – Can a dead catfish sting you?

Most catfish have venom glands on their spines, although the toxins are usually weak and, in most cases, have little effect on the victim.

Unlike bees, catfish do not actually “sting,” although the term is often used to refer to injuries suffered by cats with fins.

#8 – Are catfish high in mercury?

Catfish have a meager amount of mercury, so many health experts suggest that eating less catfish is good for health.

#9 – Is catfish good to eat?

Catfish is low in calories but rich in lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals; it is especially rich in omega-3 fats and vitamin B12, good for the heart and health.

So if you want to eat more seafood, adding catfish to your routine life is worth it.

#10 – Is catfish good for fatty liver?

Catfish, also called oily fish, is the best source of two of the three most important omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).

These fatty acids are considered good fats, not the bad saturated fats found in meat.

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  • Since 2009 I've been writing on different media portals about fishing. Here on this website, it's time to share those experiences I've witnessed in my entire life so far. Let me help you get the best stuff you need while fishing.

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