Before the word “catfish” became associated with false identities online and deception, the first thing that comes to mind is ray-finned fish with whiskers that resemble those of a cat’s, hence the name catfish. When someone says catfish, we think about that delicious fish fried and battered, crispy on the outside but soft and tasty on the inside.
- According to the USDA, the four states that produce the most catfish are Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, accounting for 95 percent of the United States total sales in 2018.
- Catfish is known as a real freshwater survivor. While other freshwater fish can only survive the wild for three years, catfish can survive the wild from 8 to 20 years.
- The City of Wilmington in Delaware, US, celebrates the annual Catfish Days – you read it right: days, plural. Because one day is not enough to celebrate catfish.
- It is normal for a catfish to be a detritivore: eat dead material found on the bottom of the water.
- Many people believe that the whiskers differentiate catfish from other fishes, but the truth is there are catfish with no whiskers!
- It is normal for a catfish to be nocturnal. Some like it during twilight (crepuscular) or during the day (diurnal).
- Catfish is part of Japanese mythology. Namazu (or Ōnamazu) is a giant underground catfish that causes earthquakes.
- June 25 is National Catfish Day in the US.
Catfish Buying Guide
You can buy catfish in the fish and seafood section of the market. Here are some tips to help you find fresh catfish and detect catfish that is already several days old and past its freshness.
- Eyes – clear and bright, not sunken and cloudy
- Gills – Deep red, not brownish
- Skin – Firm and the color is bright
- Smell – Fresh fish smells like seawater, while fish that is not fresh has that stinky fishy odor.
Avoid buying cut fish meat. Buy them whole and then have the fish vendor cut them for you.
If you know someone accustomed to buying fresh catfish, request that person to accompany you. If you don’t have a choice but go catfish shopping by yourself, keep in mind the freshness tips we’ve shared with you.
While you can store catfish in the freezer, it is ideal to buy just enough for the meal you are preparing, since catfish are available all year long.
Catfish Production & Farming in Texas
The climate in Texas is suitable for catfish farming. That is the good thing about catfish farming in Texas – you don’t have to pick a specific place in the state to do it. In an article, Texas A&M pointed out that anywhere in Texas is suitable for commercial catfish farming. There are many places in Texas where more than half of the year is ideal for growing catfish; in Northeast Texas, for example, there are around 200 days in a year when the water is in a good condition for catfish. In South Texas, the window for growing catfish is longer – 320 of 365 days in a year.
Catfish grow in ponds, cages, and raceways. The best place to grow them is in earthen ponds, where an estimated 95% of all catfish are produced. Water condition is important too. For channel catfish, the best water condition is a temperature ranging from 80 to 85 degrees F. In some cases, even if the water temp is 60 degrees F, catfish still respond well.
Catfish farming and production of catfish in Texas and anywhere in the world is an enterprise that is not without its problems and challenges: shifting market demand, problems with the quality of catfish and the standards of restaurants and food businesses, water quality management, problems with catfish predators, problems with harvests, disease management, etc.
Notwithstanding the economic challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the US is poised to continue doing good in catfish production, thanks to technological improvements and new strategies in catfish farming, including the use of split ponds in commercial catfish farming.
For those who are interested to explore opportunities in catfish farming, Texas A&M has provided on its website a list of useful readings about catfish farming from different sources – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Southern Regional Aquaculture Center (SRAC), North Central Regional Aquaculture Center (NCRAC), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Kentucky State University, Auburn University, Mississippi State University, Louisiana State University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, University of Florida, The Catfish Institute, Extension.org, and Langston University.
As a result of local production of catfish and supply sourced from farms near and around Texas, the Lone Star State, without question, is filled with restaurants that serve catfish, and you don’t have to guess which ones serve catfish. Just look up at the signage and if it reads “catfish”, you are in the right place! If you are eating in a place called Crazy Catfish Restaurant in Garland or Krispy Catfish in Fort Worth, you’ll know it is going to be an excellent experience!
Some Texans love catfish so much, it feels like the restaurant is named after them, when you see restaurants like Catfish Floyd’s in Dallas, Texas, Bob’s Catfish-N-More Restaurant in Georgetown, Texas, Stanley’s Catfish & Wings in Dallas, or Catfish Sam’s in Arlington. There’s also Mr. Catfish in Austin and Catfish King in Paris.
Nothing says “we love catfish” than the name Catfish King Restaurant located in Lufkin, Texas. You know there’s catfish when the restaurant is named Catfish House (in Carrollton and Irving), Catfish Cove in Sunnyvale, Catfish Haven in Fredericksburg, Catfish Parlour South in Austin, or River Smith’s Chicken & Catfish in Lubbock, Texas.
Catfish is not limited to catfish specialty restaurants. For example, Clear Springs Restaurant, which has four locations in Texas (New Braunfels, Nacogdoches, Midland, and Tyler), makes jalapenos stuffed with fried catfish.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
Chemicals are involved in many aquaculture practices and catfish farming is not exempted.
- Sodium chloride is used in growing catfish because this chemical is responsible for making sure there is no problem like nitrite toxicity. The use of sodium chloride has been studied, with researchers looking to determine the effects of sodium chloride on the water on African catfish.
- Formalin is an FDA-approved aquaculture drug. A study has been made regarding the effect of formalin on catfish eggs.
- Potassium permanganate is used in controlling warm-water bacterial, parasitic, and fungal diseases. Studies have been made to determine the toxicity level of potassium permanganate harmful to catfish and how this inorganic substance can control Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, Dero digitata, and Flavobacterium columnare.
- Copper compound helps in protecting catfish eggs but overuse can lead to toxicity harmful to catfish.
- Malachite green, which is used as an anti-fungal for eggs in hatcheries, is toxic to catfish.
- Methylene blue is used as an antifungal and antiparasitic treatment to help ensure that fish eggs are not lost to fungal overgrowth.
PCBs, dioxins, and mercury are typically present in fishes that live in waterways exposed to toxic chemicals. Catfish are among those with low mercury content.
With more than 3,000 known species, the catfish is one big family and they are everywhere – unless you are in Antarctica, the only place on the planet where you can’t find a catfish. The catfish population is found in many parts of the world that the three biggest catfish are found in three different locations: the Mekong Giant Catfish is from Southeast Asia, the Wels Catfish of Eurasia is found in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Aral Sea, and Aegean Sea drainages and the Piraíba of South America is found in the Amazon, the Orinoco basin, and the brackish waters of South America.
Catfish growers in the United States had sales of 360 million dollars in 2018. Mississippi is the leading producer of catfish in the US, according to the FDA. Texas is among the top producers of catfish in the US, according to Mississippi Market Marker. China’s catfish supply has accounted for more than 50% of catfish sold in the global market.
Frozen catfish fillets and catfish nuggets are sold in a vacuum-sealed plastic pack. Canned catfish, in the form of catfish pate, sold in the market is usually pet food, for cats and dogs. The packaging contains important product information like the name of the manufacturer and where the product was made, ingredients and nutritional data, expiration or best-before date, and storage and handling instructions, among other things.
When it comes to eating catfish, Texas is a real powerhouse, rising to the top in 2011 in terms of most catfish consumed per state in the US, according to the website Politifact and Texas A&M. Cooking and eating catfish is good because it is beneficial. Catfish are a healthy, low-calorie source of omega-3s and vitamin D.
Catfish has a mild, sweet flavor. You can grill it, pan fry it, bake it, or make fish cakes out of it. It goes well with recipes that include butter, tomatoes, herbs and spices, greens, lemon, onions, and peppers. You can eat cooked catfish with rice, corn, salad, or any of your favorite side dishes.
An important part of preparing freshly-caught catfish is soaking it. This is important to remove the undesirable muddy flavor you will get if you cook and eat catfish that hasn’t been soaked before cooking. Just prepare a bath made of water and baking soda and soak the catfish for 30 minutes. After that, simply rinse the catfish in cold water.
Do not eat catfish if instructed by your doctor in consideration of your health condition.
Catfish is not kosher.
The diet of people living in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America included catfish, especially in communities near the water where catfish is abundant. In many countries in Central Europe, eating catfish is a common practice especially as part of a holiday celebration or in a feast, with catfish considered by many as a delicacy. The most consumed catfish in the US are the channel catfish and the blue catfish.
In Indonesia, they call catfish warung. It is fried or grilled and sold in stalls set up in the streets. Indonesians also cook catfish. They call the dish a variety of names – pecel lele, pecak lele, or lele penyet. Malaysians call catfish ikan keli.
Catfish is a favorite food during the monsoon season in Bangladesh and some parts of India. They call catfish magur, thedu, or etta. Mohinga is a traditional noodle fish soup in Myanmar. The recipe calls for lemongrass, ginger, garlic, pepper, onions, and catfish.
Nigerians cook catfish stew and catfish pepper soup. Hungarians enjoy catfish with pasta, cheese, and paprika.
You can store fresh or cooked catfish either in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how long you plan to store it. Fresh or cooked, always follow proper storage practices – if using a bag, always make sure the bag remains closed while inside the refrigerator or freezer. The same reminder goes for cooked catfish in a food container. Always make sure the lid is completely shut.
Fresh catfish will last for two days in the refrigerator and 8 months in the freezer. Cooked catfish will last for 3 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer.
Make spicy fried catfish fillet
Spicy fried catfish is an easy dish to make, and the ingredients are not difficult to find. This is a good choice if you are looking for something good to eat that you can prepare and cook in as little time as 20 minutes. This is great with rice or french fries, even with toasted bread or pasta. If you are cooking for family and friends who do not like spicy food, you can just remove the spicy ingredients.
Yield: This recipe makes 6 servings
- Catfish fillets, 2 lbs
- Flour, 1 cup
- Cornmeal, 1/2 cup
- Paprika, 1/2 tsp
- Cajun seasoning 2 tsp
- Chili powder 1/2 tsp
- Eggs, 2
- Cooking oil
Step 1. Mix the flour, cornmeal, and Cajun seasoning.
Step 2. Mix the eggs and spicy powders.
Step 3. Put the fish in the spicy egg mixture.
Step 4. Coat the fish with the flour mixture.
Step 5. Fry until golden brown.