You’ve probably caught your first catfish. We know how exciting that can be but wait a minute. Before you rush and grab the fish, you might want to read this first. Seasoned anglers will tell you how dangerous holding a catfish the wrong way can be. The fact that a catfish can cause mild to serious injury if mishandled isn’t a myth. It is real which is why we have covered how to hold a catfish correctly without getting injured.
Understanding catfish anatomy
Let’s start with a short anatomy lesson. Contrary to what some people believe, it is not the catfish’s whiskers you should be afraid of. They are very soft and touching them or getting touched by a catfish whiskers doesn’t cause any injury. Just the same way you can’t get stung by a normal cat’s whiskers. If there is any part of the catfish you should be concerned about it is the fins.Like other fishes, the catfish has dorsal, pectoral and anal fins. Just like the whiskers, the anal fins pose no risk at all. The ones that can cause harm are the pectoral fins and dorsal fins. You can find the pectoral fins on each side of the head, and the dorsal fins at the top of the fish’s head.
Generally, these fins are soft especially if you touch them from the back. However, they have hard spines which run through their front edge. These spines are sharp and pointed and usually contain a small quantity of hemolytic toxin which is non-lethal but can be painful.In fact, when the fish isn’t struggling, you can touch the spines. But things get dangerous during a struggle and they can easily puncture the skin. This can be quite painful and the punctured area may swell. The sting can also lead to increased blood flow to the area of the puncture due to an inability of the blood to clot due to the toxin.
What is the correct way to hold a catfish?
With the knowledge of the catfish’s anatomy, you should be better enlightened on how to hold it correctly. Here’s another interesting fact: you don’t have to worry about getting finned by a large fish. It is the smaller ones that you should be concerned about and ensure that you handle carefully.Small catfish usually have needle-like spines that can easily hurt you. But, as the fish grows bigger, the spines get dull and are less likely to cause an injury.
The best way to hold a small catfish is to grip it from the top. You can place your hand behind the dorsal and pectoral spines while keeping the area between your forefinger and thumb rested behind the fish’s dorsal spine. This approach gets difficult as the fish becomes bigger as it gets more challenging to wrap your hand around its body.
Another alternative is to modify the position of your hand slightly such that you are holding the fish from the underside rather than the top. In this method, you cover the belly of the fish with your palm while bringing your thumb around it at a safe distance from its dorsal fins. Keep your fingers anchored behind the pectoral fins in a position where you can’t be jabbed by it.
For added control you can:
✅ Pinch the pectoral fins between your forefinger and your middle finger opposite your thumb.
✅ Grip the fish by the firm bones located behind the pectoral fins.
Ensure that you maintain a firm grip on your fish and only make only slight adjustments only when necessary. It is normal for the fish to struggle and wiggle in a bid to free itself. You could lose your grip if you get caught off-guard by this.
You are less likely to get finned by a large catfish. But since it is harder to wrap your hands around a large fish as you would a small one, most anglers prefer holding the fish by the “lip grip” instead. This involves carefully sticking your hands in the mouth of the fish and holding it by the lips. This requires some skill to it too, since a big catfish can bite you if you are not careful.
Still uncertain about how to hold a catfish right? You can hold it with a glove instead. A pair of rugged gloves is made from durable material which will protect you from a getting stung. You could also cover your hands with a towel in case you don’t have a glove with you.