The catfish is a plenty good enough fish for anyone.

MARK TWAIN (1835-1910)

Catfish

DOLLY PARTON

My husband calls me 'catfish'. He says I'm all mouth and no brains.

Telephoning Catfish


'Telephoning' is a method of catching fish (especially catfish) developed in the southern US in the fifties, using the magneto from an old crank-handled telephone attached to two wires, which you drop either side of the boat while you crank the handle. The fish are stunned by the electrical current and float to the top, where you grab them (using a net, so you don’t electrocute yourself). When it first caught on people would take the phone off the wall, go fishing, then re-install the phone to tell their neighbours what they’d caught, but the method threatened to devastate fish stocks and was soon made illegal in many states; in Cherokee County, Georgia in 1955 you could get 30 days on the chain gang for telephoning a fish. 

Another effective-but-controversial method of hunting catfish is 'noodling': you find a catfish hole and stick your hand in, the fish clamps its mouth around your hand, and you pull it out. This is also known as 'catfisting'. 


Other methods of poaching reported in an academic study called Telephoning Fish: An Examination of the Creative Deviance Used by Wildlife Violators in the United States include:

Rocket Netting: you lay out a net, staked down on one side and in the middle, and attach rockets to the other side, then entice your prey onto the net and fire the rockets so that the net envelops the prey. A successful foray can apparently catch 30 to 40 turkeys at once. 

Hiding Behind Cows: at night deer emerge from the forest and mingle with the cows. The poachers, hiding behind cows, work their way close to the deer and shoot them with a pistol. They now insert a hose into the deer’s rectum and inflate it with compressed air from a portable tank, then push it into the river so it floats downstream to where a partner with a pickup truck is waiting. 

Ground Walnuts or Buckeye Leaves: an old technique traditionally used by American Indians – you grind up the walnuts or leaves and drop them in a stream; this de-oxygenates the water immediately downstream and brings fish to the surface.

Swimming Tongues


There are over 2,200 species of catfish and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. They live in the frozen rivers of Siberia and the steamy swamps of Borneo. Species have been found in the Himalayas and the Andes at altitudes of over 14,000 feet, while others bask in the warm coral reefs of the South Pacific. They range in size from some of the smallest known fishes to the largest. Scoloplax dicra is fully–grown at half an inch while the European wels (Silurus glanis) grows to 16 feet and can weigh 650lb.
 
Catfish account for about 8% of all fish and are among the most remarkable creatures on earth. There is a talking catfish, a walking catfish, an electric catfish, an upside–down catfish and a catfish that looks like a banjo, but what really makes them stand out is their senses – the most finely tuned in nature. They have more taste buds than any other creature. Their entire bodies are covered with them. A six–inch catfish may have over a quarter of a million taste buds, not just in its mouth and gills, but on its whiskers, fins, back, belly, sides and tail. The channel catfish has the best sense of taste of any vertebrate, able to detect less than a hundredth of a teaspoonful of a substance in an Olympic swimming pool full of water.
 
Catfish also have extraordinary senses of smell, touch and hearing. They can smell some compounds at a dilution of one part in 10 billion. They have no visible external ears, but because they are the same density as water, their whole body acts as a giant ear. In addition, ultra-low frequency sound is picked up by the lateral line, small pores along the fish’s side containing tiny hair–like projections that are super-sensitive to vibrations. These are used to find prey and avoid predators. The Chinese have exploited this talent for centuries, using catfish to warn of earthquakes: they are said to be able to detect them days in advance.

The male hardhead catfish hatches the fertilised eggs in his mouth.

An Ancient Japanese legend says that earthquakes are actually caused by a giant restless underground catfish.

As designated by former President Ronald Reagen, in the US June 25th is National Catfish Day.