How to Hold A Catfish and Never Get Hurt

How to hold a catfish

Rumor has it that catfish can sting, and handling catfish, therefore, is deemed risky and avoided by those who are new to fish processing. Do catfish deserve the bad reputation?

If you are one of those who has never caught a catfish before or have been irrationally fearful of the idea of touching a catfish, the good news is, catfish can be as harmless as any other captive fish, as long as you know how to handle them properly.

There is, in fact, no rocket science behind learning how to hold a catfish without getting hurt. This article will walk you through essential facts of catfish and the safest way to hold them. Don’t be put off by the possibility of getting stung by catfish. Other fishers can do it, and so can you.

How dangerous are catfish?

Although the name “Catfish” may make you wonder if this type of fish has anything to do cats, the catfish species bear no resemblance with cats, except for their barbels that look like a cat’s whiskers.

Catfish are farm-raised and captured as foods in many parts of the world. They are an extremely popular food in Asia and the United States. Therefore, catfish is being widely farm-raised and fished around the world.

Notable features of a typical catfish consist of a flattened head, some barrels (up to four depending on specific species) and a bony spine-like rayon its dorsal and pectoral fins. It is the scariest part of a catfish because its venom is stored in its fin rays, which are ready to attack when the fish’s irritated.

That explains why catching catfish can be a lot of fun, but when it comes to handling them off the hook, a lot of anglers tend to get cold feet. For an inexperienced angler, catfish prove to be much of a challenge due to their sharp spine that contains their unique venom.

The venom found in catfish can be threatening to humans. And if you happen to be “stung” by catfish, you should immediately go to the hospital for a check-up. There is a type of catfish whose sting can lead to severe wounds and even death if unattended.

But you should not let this scare you. Even though the possibility of being stung by a catfish can be pretty intimidating, a catfish is harmless, and with a little training, you will be able to grasp how to hold a catfish and do it like a pro.

What is the guaranteed way to hold a catfish?

To learn how to hold a catfish, you should first prepare yourself mentally, which means you should abandon all negative thoughts about how you may get stung by a catfish. Remember that you are the one who catches the fish, and you are in charge. It cannot harm you unless you want it to.

When you are ready to take up the challenge, here are some tried-and-tested tricks that will help you get hold of your catfish. Dealing with catfish can be further categorized as dealing with small catfish, medium catfish and finally big catfish.

#1. Dealing with small catfish

Small catfish can be tricky to tackle and pose more risk than bigger ones. Follow the steps below to hold your catfish safely and properly:

  • Hold the catfish from the top for easier control.
  • Upon holding the catfish, get a firm grip on the fish by placing your thumb and forefinger in front of the dorsal spine and behind the pectoral fins.
  • Keep your grip firm and tight, make sure that none of your fingers touch the dorsal or pectoral spines.
  • Transfer your fish to a flat surface or a container without losing your grip and you are done.

You can choose to wear protective gloves or use a towel to wrap the fish, but it is mostly safe to touch catfish with your bare hands. Beware of the final step in which you release your catfish into your container or the water as some people tend to let their guards down and end up getting “finned” or “stung.”

#2. Dealing with medium catfish

Medium catfish are those that are slightly bigger (from two to three pounds and up). You can adopt a similar approach to the first method, and you may want to wear protective gloves or use a towel to avoid direct skin contact with the fish.

If the fish becomes too big for your hand to grip, try the method below for big catfish. A medium or big catfish is less risky than smaller ones because your hands are unlikely to come into contact with the spines.

#3. Dealing with big catfish

Big catfish hardly ever cause any harm with their fins, but you won’t be able to handle them with your hands alone. The best way to deal with big catfish is to resort to supporting fishing equipment including a net and a lip grip.

To unhook a big catfish, use a dip net to contain the fish and then use a lip grip to release them. There are many brands of lip grips available, and each offers its pros and cons. While getting stung by a big catfish is normally not an issue, look out for the fish’s mouth to avoid getting bitten.

To gain a better idea of how to hold a catfish, check out the following video for a real-life demonstration of the technique:

As mentioned above, holding a catfish is not as tough as you think as long as you are well prepared for the task. You won’t need any special training to know how to hold a catfish except for some essential knowledge on catfish and the right approach to executing the task.

Final thoughts

We hope that this article has helped you overcome your fear of getting stung by catfish and increase your chance of success the next time you catch one. Catfish should be afraid of you now!


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