Lately I have been catching alot of big catfish in Illinois. Catfish are the only fish that creep me out. I have always heard that there barbs on there dorsal and side fins are poisonous. Everytime I ask someone it seems to be a 50 50 answer. Its either yes or no. Last weekend I caught a cat and got a pretty bad cut on my palm and it kinda stung alittle bit but I think it was just in my head. So does anybody know the truth about these slimy ugly suckers???
I had to research this question. Catfish have spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins. The spines are capable of inflicting wounds. A family dog stepped on a bullhead when I was a kid and his foot was badly swollen for weeks. Otherwise, not much to worry about. Madtoms are the exception. They have poison glands associated with the spines on their pectoral fins. These are capable of inflicting painful, but not dangerous wounds. You may want to consider this if you like to wade around barefooted.
Most of the cats I caught last weekend were between 3 and 5 pounds. I caught about a 7 inch cat and shes the one who cut me. And she looked pregnant and I keep all the fish in a livewell basket. When I went to let her go I was I grabbed her by the mouth and she bit the hell out of my thumb. So I kinda think the fish had pms but she went out with a fight. None of the bigger ones hurt me but she was 1/4 the size of the rest of them and the only fish to ever hurt me lol. But I still have a deep cut on my hand from her.
The predominant catfish in Illinois, Channel, Flathead, Bullhead, and Blue in the south, are not poisonous. The spines which the fish can lock in place are a defense against predation or being swallowed by other fish. If punctured by a spine, the stinging you feel is caused by the protective slime on the fish. Some folks have worse reactions to this than others, but never anything serious.
You have to be a "real man" to lip a catfish. They have strong jaws and can really clamp down on your fingers. I place my hand on their back just behind the dorsal fin then grab one pectoral with my thumb and the other with my forefinger.
Love fried catfish fillets especially those caught from cleaner waters. Yummy! Pond raised catfish served in restaurants usually suck.
When I was a kid I jumped off the dock and there was a school of tiny bullheads swimming by. Those things stung for days. Not from any poison but from the poke form their stingers. I have been stung from a Catfish while river fishing also, not poisonous.
Been limblining Flatheads to 5lbs., and Channels to 4lb. The barbs seem tohave some type "irritant" chemical. While, I guess not regarded as a poison, the site can and will itch for days. Last summer, I got Blues up to 10lb., pretty interesting flopping a kitty like that over the side of a solo canoe!
"Blessed are the cracked because they let in light."
im bring this topic back (i got stung again lol). I recently did alot more research on catfish stings and am still getting the same 50 50 answers. Has anybody found something online that they relly belive?? I think it only stings and burns because of the germs and stuff on there barbs but am not sure. I think if it was poisinous I would proboly be dead by now but still searching for the truth. I dont know what to belive anymore Ive heard it all..
you might be getting mixed answers due to the fact that some are venomous and some are not. here's what i found out:
"In several species catfish can use these fin rays to deliver a stinging protein if the fish is irritated. This venom is produced by glandular cells in the epidermal tissue covering the spines. In members of the family Plotosidae, and of the genus Heteropneustes, this protein is so strong it may hospitalize humans, those unfortunate enough to receive a sting; in Plotosus lineatus, the stings may result in death."
This brings back childhood memories. While boat fishing, I had a 7 inch bullhead fall off the hook mid air as swung it into the boat. It's barb landed dead center into my quad muscle. There was a considerable amount of swelling and pain for the rest of the day.
quote Rich11: "im bring this topic back (i got stung again lol). I recently did alot more research on catfish stings and am still getting the same 50 50 answers. Has anybody found something online that they relly belive?? I think it only stings and burns because of the germs and stuff on there barbs but am not sure. I think if it was poisinous I would proboly be dead by now but still searching for the truth. I dont know what to belive anymore Ive heard it all.."
Rather than find some information online, I can relate to you what I learned in ichthyology class more than 30 years ago. There are indeed many catfish species that have developed the nasty trait of venomous dorsal or pectoral spines. However, I suspect you are interested only in those species that occur in your neck of the woods, and that narrows the list to a relative handful. In North America, only those members of the catfish family belonging to the genus Noturus have venon glands associated with the pectoral spines. In Illinois, that would include the tadpole madtom (Noturus gyrinus), the stonecat (N. flavus), the freckled stonecat (N. nocturnus), the slender stonecat (N. exilis), and the brindled stonecat (N. miurus) ( The Fishes of Illinois , S.A Forbes and R. E. Richardson, Ill. Nat. Hist. Surv. Div.). All of these species are generally less than 6 inches long, and sometimes mistaken for young bullheads or catfish. The venom, when combined with a pectoral spine puncture, gives a painful sting somewhat akin to a bee or wasp sting. It is not fatal unless it leads to an allergic anaphylactic shock reaction. As pointed out in some of the links in the responses above, the catfish “whiskers” do not sting. The barbels are sensory organs for the catfish to help it find food in murky waters. On the other hand, all of the native catfish/bullheads do possess pectoral and dorsal spines, and even without venom glands they can inflict a nasty puncture wound. A deep puncture wound by its very nature can introduce pathogens deep into the skin and muscle where they can lead to infection. That is probably the source of the many stories of “poisonous” catfish.
If you still feel you would like some online sources that are credible, here are a couple:
"Said one of these men, long past seventy years of age: 'I could carry, paddle, walk and sing with any man I ever saw. I have been twenty-four years a canoe man, and forty-one years in service; no portage was ever too long for me. Fifty songs could I sing. I have saved the lives of ten voyageurs. Have had twelve wives and six running dogs. I spent all my money in pleasure. Were I young again, I should spend my life the same way over. There is no life so happy as a voyageur's life!'"