Catfish are a particularly interesting species of fish, both in appearance and characteristics. With their smooth skin and long barbels, they look like monsters out of science fiction. They are called more commonly called Catfish, though in Africa they are known by the name Barbel.
The largest of all catfish is of the European species (Silurus glamis) which may grow up to 15′ (4.5m) in length and weigh in at 660lbs (300kg). Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a picture showing the fish at this size. There are many on Google Images, but the larger of these record the weights at around 250lbs – a long way off from 660lbs. Nevertheless, the images do show a true likeness and one has to use one’s imagination to get up to the 660lb mark. Photographs show up to three people sitting down holding the fish. Following this then, about 8 people would be needed to hold the biggest of them.
Compare this to the fact that catfish are related to minnows and the universally known goldfish. From the sublime to the ridiculous! Catfish or Barbel though, to qualify, must have at least one pair of barbels (long spiky whiskers) on their upper jaw but may also have them in pairs on the snout and on their chin.
The various species of catfish or barbel display some interesting characteristics. For instance:
The Malapterurus electricus, widely distributed in Africa, is a shocking species, able to generate up to 450 volts which it uses to defend itself and to capture prey. People keep it in aquariums and apparently it grows to recognise those who feed it. Fat, just beneath it’s skin, insulates it against it’s own electric charge, it’s head being the negative pole. Pale in colour and small, the largest growing to 4′ (1.2m) in length. The natural habitat is rivers in Africa, the Nile, Niger, Volta and the Rift Valley Lakes and Lake Chad.
The talking catfish or barbel – Acanthodoras spinosissimus – makes grunting noises by moving its pectoral spine. It is also said to be venomous to humans. Its natural habitat is in Northern South America in the Amazon and Essequibo River Basins.
The next is the upside-down catfish – synodontis batensoda – found in the larger African rivers. It has a ‘twisted’ appearance making it difficult to decide where the fins really are. It has a definite fish tail and is covered in spots which in some species are clearly visible. Some people speculate that it may swim the way it does because its especially likes the food found at the bottom.
Or how about the walking catfish – clarias batrachus – an air breather which can travel overland. Aquarium owners often report that the fish has pushed the lid off the aquarium and escaped, only to be found dead and dried up some short distance away. They cannot survive long out of water. If their skin dries, they dehydrate and die. Therefore if the fish are going to look for another water source, one would have thought they would first have knowledge of the existence of such a source nearby. They are able to exist with low levels of oxygen in the water, they come in quite a variety of colours and their barbels more commonly point out in front of them, not to the side.
There is one last catfish found in the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers of unusual characteristics called candiru (vandellia cirrhosa). More to be dreaded than the piranha, it is strongly advisable not to go skinny dipping in these rivers as it is a parasitic catfish. Ouch! If you are interested enough, you may like to look up its queerer habits yourself.
The best known catfish for sport and food in North America are the Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) and the Channel Catfish (Ictalurus Punctatus). Catfish eat more or less anything and are mostly caught by still fishing. Some suggestions for bait would be worms, maggots, small fish, bread paste or cheese. There is a very useful website called landbigfish dot com which has a search box by state, and by fish variety, allowing one to find suitable fishing spots nearby.
Here are a couple of suggestions about kayaks for fishing.
The Ocean Prowler 13: This package includes the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Trident Anger sit-on-top fishing kayak. Comes with an Ocean Kayak Basic Seat, Aqu-Bound Swell Plus paddle, a Stohlquist Fisherman Vest and two pair of Scupper Stoppers (one pair is medium, the other, small).
Future Beach DLX 126 Sporting Kayak. It is specially designed for sport fishing or photography. It is lightweight, comfortable and easy to manoeuvre. It has and adjustable back rest and seat cushions, adjustable Step-lock foot rest systems, storage hatches with rubber covers, sealed rear bulkhead, molded-in cup holder and swivel rod holders, and front and rear bungees. All this is at a great price!
Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia were the main search resources for this article.
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