Hello, Adventurers! Welcome first-timers to the Coastal Expeditions blog! If you love the outdoors, exploring nature, and learning about animals, you’ve come to the right place. Here on the Coastal Expeditions blog we dive deep into different habitats, excursions, conservation efforts and nature programs. To our return readers, welcome back! We commend you for being committed to learning! Our previous posts about hiking safety tips, what you pack to be comfortable during your hike, and the best places to hike in the Lowcountry are available for your reading pleasure. Once you’re done reading this article, we suggest taking advantage of those resources and heading outside!
Today, we’re celebrating catfish and all of the wonderful things they have to offer! August is National Catfish Month and has been since Ronald Reagan recognized the huge role catfish played in the American diet on June 25th, 1987. This month, the United States Senate passed a resolution, referred to as S.Res.353, to formally acknowledge National Catfish Month by unanimous consent. Roger Wicker, a senator for the state of Mississippi and one of the senators who introduced the resolution, had this to say about its purpose: “Catfish is a source of pride for Mississippi and a big part of our state’s economy. Farm-raised catfish is wholesome, delicious, and already accounts for more than fifty percent of the United States aquaculture industry. Designating the month of August as National Catfish Month recognizes the impact of catfish producers and helps to share this pride with the rest of the nation.” With the channel catfish serving as the state fish for Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Tennessee, it’s easy to see how much this family of fish means to our country.
We think catfish are pretty cool, too! That’s why we want to give you a rundown on the many different species, where they live, how they live, and how they’re caught! If you’re interested in learning a bunch of cool facts about catfish in honor of this nationally-recognized month, keep reading!
Catfish are a type of ray-finned fish. They derive their name from their barbels, which resemble the whiskers on a cat. Not all catfish have barbels, but for those who do, barbels always come in pairs. Most catfish are nocturnal, meaning they prefer to eat and interact with each other at night. Unlike other fish, catfish do not have scales. A few species of catfish have armor-like plates, called scutes, or are entirely naked. (Before you judge, they need to be naked, as these species breathe through their skin!) Catfish prefer to live in coastal waters and can be found on every continent (except Antarctica). A majority of catfish live in freshwater, with a few native to saltwater and even less native to underground caves. More than half of all catfish species can be found in the Americas. Since they’re so popular here, it makes sense that we’ve developed more than a few nicknames for catfish over the years. You might hear catfish referred to as “mudcats,” “polliwogs,” or “chuckleheads” in the southern United States.
Most catfish are considered bottom feeders, because they feed at the bottom of ponds and rivers. They do not have teeth to bite; therefore, instead, they use their mouths to gulp or suction onto food. Catfish have chemoreceptors all along the outside of their bodies, allowing them to “taste” what they touch and “smell” changes in their surrounding water.
Catfish come in all sizes and have the greatest range within the single order of bony fish. Some species can measure in at less than one centimeter at full maturity, while others can grow to weigh up to six-hundred and forty-six pounds. A Giant Goonch catfish found in the Kali river in India grew large enough to attack both humans and water buffalo before being caught.
Did you know catfish can communicate? Catfish use various internal mechanisms to produce drumming sounds and have enough auditory reception to differentiate between different pitches. They can locate which direction a sound is coming from, as well as how distant the sound is. More often than not, catfish make sounds when under distress and as a means of defense.
Anyone who has ever partaken in catfish knows how delicious catfish can be. Catfish is used in a variety of dishes across the world. In Nigeria, the fish is used in a popular dish called “catfish pepper soup,” while individuals serve fried “hito” with vinegar and kalamansi dip. Catfish are an excellent source of vitamin D—a vitamin which otherwise can only be absorbed into our bodies through exposure to sunlight—and the essential fatty acid Omega-6. The most common types of catfish eaten in the United States are blue catfish and channel catfish. Catfish is an extremely popular meal in the southern U.S. and our preferred method of consuming the fish is covered in a cornmeal crumb and friend.
Where to fish for catfish depends largely upon the time of day. As we mentioned earlier, catfish are largely nocturnal. During the night, they are highly sensitive and use their senses to search for food. At night, you’re most likely going to want to fish for catfish in flats, bars, points, shorelines, and weed-filled areas. However, during the day, you’re best sticking to muddy waters, including tributaries, river bends, and deep holes.
Use live worms, minnows, cut bait, or strong-smelling artificial bait to attract catfish. Catfish are eager to bite, so don’t be surprised by a sudden yank and a quick take. That said, some catfish will nibble for a while before taking the bait. Keep the line slack and still if you want to pull them in.
Noodling is any type of fishing which does not use traditional means, but most commonly refers to the practice of catching fish using your bare hands. The practice originated in the southern United States and is still a popular sport there. Noodling involves sticking one’s hand into a catfish hole (a hole in mud where catfish lay their eggs), into a catfish’s mouth, and pulling them out of the water. This practice comes with a host of risks, including scapes and broken fingers. There’s also a high probability of an abandoned catfish hole being the new hole of a snake or snapping turtle. For these reasons, noodling is illegal in many states. We don’t recommend noodling for catfish, since a hook-and-line will work just fine!
The diversity of species among catfish as a family of fish is extraordinary. From the wels catfish of Eurasia to the piraíba of South America, there’s no shortage of catfish to learn about! Catfish are more than just a tasty meal. Their presence in nature provides for an entire ecosystem and industry. Therefore, we’re glad to be able to celebrate catfish this month! Now that you’re informed, go out there and catch a catfish for yourself or read up on the species we weren’t able to cover here!
As much as the Coastal Expeditions blog is a great resource for learning about nature and conservationism, there’s nothing better than exploring nature yourself. Coastal Expeditions offers nature tours, kayak rentals, paddleboard rentals, island tours, kid-friendly tours and chances to explore the Lowcountry! Check out our various offerings and find which one suits you and your adventurous spirit! Our tours are led by knowledgeable, approachable naturalists and sea captains who are eager to answer your questions! Read up on new experiences being offered by Coastal Expeditions on this blog. Until next time, readers. Get out there and explore! Adventure awaits!
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Take in the stunning beauty of local creeks and waters from one of our kayaks or SUPs. Walk-ups are welcome or call / text to book and we’ll be ready when you are. All gear and instruction provided.
Call or text 843.884.7684 to book.
If you really want to get a feel for the local history, identify the native wildlife, and get to special places, you'll need someone experienced to show you the way. We'll get you there.
Check out our Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant tours.
Offering Kayaks and Paddleboards
Call or text 843.884.7684 to book.
Check out our Isle of Palms tours.