Understanding the differences in between various catfish varieties is beneficial when caring for and preparing your catch.

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Catfish have actually been a staple of American cooking throughout videotaped history. Aboriginal Americans ate them, as did europe explorers and the faster settlers. In fact, ours hankering because that delicious catfish has actually done nothing yet grow, through catfish now among the most renowned American food fishes.

One reason for your heightened popular is the reality these whiskered warriors are numerous in lakes, rivers, ponds and also even brackish tidal waters. The three varieties most frequently targeted space the channel catfish, blue cat and flathead, every one of which space delicious once properly cared for and also prepared.

While this different types of catfish are very comparable in flavor, catfish connoisseurs agree there room distinctive distinctions that do one types preferable over another for details diners. In part cases, physical distinctions between varieties and dimension classes likewise necessitate differing method of preparation to facilitate the utmost gustatory enjoyment that the catch.

These things being so, let’s look individually at each varieties and its distinctive qualities. Knowing the distinctions will enable you come savor to the fullest these delectable freshwater fishes.

Channel Catfish

Let’s start our discussion with the many popular, many widespread, most abundant member of the family, the channel cat. Blue cats and flatheads prosper much larger, yet when it involves popularity polls, these heavyweights can’t hold a candle to their cousin.

Everywhere the channel cat swims, that is targeted by a committed group that anglers who choose nothing much better than catching and eating this whiskered wonder. In claims where catfish anglers have been surveyed, 50 to 75 percent choose fishing because that channel cats. And when inquiry to explain the number and also size that catfish they desired to catch and keep, most wanted four 5-pound catfish or ten 2-pound catfish end one 20-pounder, a fact I think correlates to the id that smaller fish are much more flavorful than heavyweights.

Channel cats inhabit every little thing from city ponds, gravel-bottomed creeks and muddy bayous to huge man-made reservoirs, organic lakes and big delta rivers. They deserve to tolerate extreme conditions much better than numerous fish, yet they perform not, together many civilization think, favor living in turbid, poor-quality waters. Channel catfish are healthiest in clean, warm, well-oxygenated water v moderate current and abundant cover. Your adaptability is amazing, however, and channel cat inhabit almost every body of water within their range that’s not also cold or also polluted.

In the instances where channel catfish are recorded in incredibly muddy, hot or polluted waters, that is likely the meat will have a negative taste. The same is true v other species of catfish. It is best, therefore, to concentration fishing initiatives where water top quality is good, and keep the catch alive or on ice cream until all set for eating. I love the flaky white meat of every channel cat caught and cared for in this manner, but, there is no doubt, the best-tasting channel cats I’ve eaten were caught from icy-cold lakes and ponds in winter and cooked new from the water end a campfire!

Blue Catfish

Although they grow much larger, blue catfish carefully resemble channel cats in appearance and flavor. In fact, I once bet a girlfriend $50 he couldn’t identify a fried blue cat fillet indigenous a fried channel cat fillet in a blind taste test. My buddy was constantly saying a fat blue cat was far better eating than any type of channel cat. But with a blindfold on and two plates complete of channel cat fillets in former of him come sample (yes, simply channel cats), he proclaimed emphatically the plate number one must certainly be blue cat because of that distinctively far better flavor. I graciously welcomed payment that the wager.

Healthy populations of blue cats usually contain countless individuals approximately 10 pounds. Larger, older fish are much much less common, however in some prime waters, catching several 20- to 40-pound blues throughout a few hours is not taken into consideration unusual during peak fishing times. Specimens weighing 50 pounds or more are scarce and also often challenging to find and catch, but more and much more anglers gain the an obstacle of targeting this big, hard-hitting trophies.

So what around those bigger blue cats? space they great to eat? I often am inquiry that concern and constantly reply the same. Yes, they are delicious, a truth I confirmed many times in mine younger, more ignorant days as soon as I kept and also ate every catfish ns caught.

Now ns encourage fellow catfish anglers to exercise restrictive harvest. Keep smaller fish come eat and also release larger catfish – those that space older and less usual – for this reason they continue growing and carry out trophy fishing opportunities. There’s no hard-and-fast dominion to follow, but I personally draw the line at 5 pounds. The fillets and steaks ns eat come from smaller, more abundant blue cats. Same with channel cats and also flatheads.


The flathead catfish, likewise known as the yellow cat, dirt cat or shovelhead, is a brute the a fish, muscular and also streamlined, however ugly by all standards. Its flattened cranium looks choose it to be run v a rubbish compactor. The beady eyes are wide-set. The thickened under lip protrudes in a perpetual pout, worm-like barbels dangle from its chin, and also its hide has actually the color and texture the a slug.

Despite that ugliness, however, the flathead catfish has actually a devoted following of anglers. This is largely due to the fact that this fish is a big, bullish battler. When one takes her bait, you may first think you have snagged a sunken log. But set the hook, and it will explode through a fury that is periodically frightening. Couple of freshwater big-game fish offer anglers together outstanding avenues for catching the fish that a lifetime. And when a chaos of fish because that the dinner table is wanted, the variety of little flatheads in many waters makes it a cinch to pack a cooler through plenty that “eaters.”

Load the coolers us do, for many of united state old cat men strongly think a 1- come 5-pound flathead has a delectable flavor far superior to other catfish. Ns cannot say for sure why this must be, yet flatheads scavenge much much less than your brethren, preferring live foods items like sunfish and crawdads come the meals that dead fish or detritus blue and channel cat hastily devour.

Perhaps it is this difference in diet that offers flatheads a taste many of us uncover much sweeter and also flavorful. Come me, it’s prefer the difference between a fillet basted in butter during cooking and one that is not. The former titillates the taste buds in ways the last cannot.

To heighten this savoriness, one should constantly do two things when preparing a flathead – or any kind of other catfish because that that matter – because that cooking.

First, prior to skinning each fish, use a rope or nail to hang its head increase from a support above a 5-gallon bucket. Then usage a knife to reduced off the tail where the tail joins the body. Blood will pour the end from a vein in the tail, hence “bleeding out” the fish, an endeavor that to produce whiter, better-tasting meat. The first time i tasted wild catfish bled in this fashion, ns was amazed in ~ the marked improvement in flavor.

Second, after you skin the fish, usage a spicy knife to eliminate all dark red flesh along the fish’s sides, specifically along the lateral line. This meat often tends to have actually a strong, disagreeable flavor, and also contaminants that might be in the water wherein the catfish was caught tend to concentration there. Remove it and the catfish not only tastes better, it’s additionally healthier come eat.

Some last Notes

For part folks, frying is the only way to cook a catfish. There’s merely no tastier an approach of preparation, for this reason why bother with anything else? case closed.

Truth is, versatility is one of catfish’s biggest assets serve it fried, smoked, poached, baked, broiled, braised, sautéed or barbecued. Or incorporate it with other foodstuffs for casseroles or chowders. Catfish have the right to be consumed in a sandwich, a salad, a pizza or one omelet. You’re minimal only by her imagination.

The greatest mistake to avoid is overcooking. Catfish are naturally tender and also cooks quickly. It’s done as soon as it flakes easily with a fork.

If girlfriend wait for the fish come float in hot oil together some world recommend, you’ve probably cooked far the natural moisture that renders catfish so succulent and also destroyed much of its distinct flavor in the process.

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When deep-frying, warmth the oil come 365 to 370 degrees – no hotter. The old “throw a complement in the oil and wait till it lights” trick rarely results in the appropriate frying temperature. Use a food preparation thermometer to get it right, or a deep-fryer that have the right to be set at the exactly heat.