By BOB T. EPSTEIN
Vista Outdoors Writer
Catfish get their moniker from the whiskers or mouth barbells that look like cats whiskers.
Just about every waterway in the world, including fresh and saltwater, have one or more of the hundreds of varieties that swim the Amazon, Mississippi, Congo, Connecticut River, and about every other river, lake, and pond worldwide.
The Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, Pacific, all the seas of Europe have catfish such as blue, red, yellow, green, black, purple colored catfish.
In our area, catfish are served in most restaurants. These fish are farm- raised not wild fish. As catfish are bottom, detritus feeders, controlling what they eat allows for clean, healthy fish filets.
Catfish (hundreds of varieties worldwide) have more than whiskers in common. They are vacuum cleaners, they’re used in reclamation ponds, and fish-tanks; salt and fresh water aquariums, and they are in every one of the 11-Glade ponds and lakes.
When there is a water source that is seemingly devoid of fish life, chances are there are catfish living in it. At my farm pond, about 24 very large older catfish, taken from the Tennessee River some 10-years ago, are living nicely on floating catfish pellets, whatever the ducks leave on the bottom, insects and assorted other aquatic food sources.
They are also our kitchen disposal crew. The acid in their stomach dissolve chicken and steak bones and grizzle. Old bread-they eat it, old spaghetti and meatballs, just about anything that’s organic and cannot be put in our mulch piles due to it attracting skunks, foxes, cats (the fur kind) — goes to the pond disposal crew.
Catfish recently have really been put on the map on nationwide television with the “noodling” program. People from all walks of life are clamouring to be on the show and stick their hands in holes to grab big catfish underwater (not my kind of fishing) it’s a whole new class of fishers trying to be outdoor-grunge savvy, and thrill-seekers, using catfish to get back to basics — grabbing a fish with their hands — I do not put my hands in holes, either above ground, or below, as I never know what’s about to strike. It’s just too scary. But not for those who want to showcase how brave and macho they are, be they men or women celebrities, or models, they want to be seen no matter what. That’s fine with me.
When I was in the Congo, I witnessed several men drag out a 600-pound Congo River catfish using a rope and shark-hook attached to a large chunk of rotten pig carcass.
In the Mekong River there are reports of catfish in excess of 800-pounds. A recent River Monster TV program talked of man-eating catfish in India. Suffice to say, “Cats” grow big in big, deep rivers and lakes.
In the U.S., Blue Cats are considered the largest, and reach into a few hundred pounds.
They are in the Tennessee River, and a trip to the aquarium in Chattanooga will let you see some of these truly big, powerful fish as well as little yellow or brown “pout” and cousins to my fish: Channel cats.
Closer to home visit the docks at Lake Dartmoor, and you will see many good sized catfish milling around looking for a hand-out. One thing about catfish that I really enjoy is their powerful fight. Molly, one of my 12-pound pets, took 15-minutes to bring to net using my fly rod. They are sleek, strong animals, and have had millions of years like the shark has to develop strong survival attributes.
They are healthy fish and like cats also have nine lives. Even kept out of the water for some extended time as in when the attached photo was made, the fish easily recovered and swam away to eat again another day.