Catfish is a popular game fish due to the fight that they put up when you hook them. But the majority of the catfish has three distinctive barbs on them that can cause some serious issues. Thus, it is essential to handle the catfish carefully, especially the big and powerful ones. So, how do you hold a big catfish carefully?
The majority of the catfish have their distinctive barbs in front of their dorsal fin and the pectoral fins. To handle the catfish safely, grab them adjacent to but behind their spikes so that the spikes can’t reach your hand when the fish wiggles. \
For medium-sized catfish, you can hold them by their lower jaw. For the big ones, make sure to hold the fish near the tail fin with the other hand. This will keep them calmer.
Unlike other game fishes, supporting the weight and keeping the fish under control is not the only concern when handling catfish. Arguably, you will need to be more careful about their spikes than the fish themselves.
Nearly all of the catfish have their spikes, and most of them are toxic. If you get punctured, it can cause all sorts of problems. So –
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How To Hold A Catfish Properly?
When you pull a catfish out of the water, you will want to hold it safely so that neither the fish nor you get hurt in the process, and the fish doesn’t escape before a quick measure and a lovely selfie. When you first pull the fish out of water-
- Hold The Fish Steady
When first pulled out of the water, fish will naturally freak out. Give it some time to settle down and chill a bit before approaching the fish. Once the fish is somewhat settled, grab the jig or the hook to get better control of the fish. If the fish is large or swallowed the hook, you can grab them by their lower jaw.
Holding the fish by its jaw is a safe approach. Catfish has two sets of teeth in their mouth. The first set is near their jaw on the upper and the lower lips. The second set is deeper in their mouth. Those are the sharp teeth you should not mess with. The outer teeth are smaller and duller. It is safe to hold the fish this way.
Most of the time, the fish will be pretty exhausted due to the fight in the water, especially the larger ones. So, it should not be difficult to hold the fishs’ jaw and approach the next stage.
Grab The Fish Avoiding The Spikes
Holding the fish by the jaw will give you control over the fish, but you cannot unhook the fish with ease. For that, you will need to hold the fish behind the head.
Watch out though, that is where all the spikes are. To avoid the barbs, again, let the fish calm down and then slide your middle finger and thumb on either side of the fish just behind the pectoral fins.
The barbs are located on the front edge of the fins—approach from the bottom or belly side. Be sure to take your time to position your hand before touching the fish. As soon as you touch, the fish start wiggling, assuming it is not dead already.
When you make contact, hold the fish firmly and quickly before the fish get a chance to wiggle again. To grab the fish more securely, wrap the other fingers around the fish and hold it relatively tight. Not too tight to squeeze the fish, though.
To summarize, on one side of the fish, your thumb will sit touching but right behind the pectoral fin. On the other side, your forefinger will sit in front of the barb and the rest of the fingers behind it with the middle finger touching the fin.
The dorsal fin of the fish should be left on its own, and you should have a safe distance from it.
Hold The Tail Fin Of The Fish
If the fish is huge and too heavy to hold it on the one hand for long, be sure to hold the fish at another point with the other hand to support the weight of the fish stably. Otherwise, you might hurt the fish unintentionally.
Even worse, your hand will get tired over time, and if the fish jerks around out of nowhere, it might slip and end up hurting you or someone else on the boat badly. Another reason you should hold the big fishes on two distinctive points is to keep them under control.
The bigger the fish is, the stronger it is as well. So, when it jerks, it will naturally jerk more violently. And if you are not ready, it might cause problems. When you hold the fish near the other end, it cannot generate nearly as much energy.
Press It Against A Surface
If you either want to measure the fish or weigh the fish do not hold the fish in your hand, you can put it on the surface of the boat and gently press it against the floor. If you can anchor the fish with the floor without hurting it, it is a great way to stabilize the fish.
If you choose to do so, hold the fish with its jaw, just like before, let it calm and put it down on the ground on its belly, let it calm down, and hold the fish behind the pectoral fins like before. This time the dorsal fin will be on top, and your hand should be behind the dorsal spike as well.
The downside of the method is, when the fish comes in contact with the ground, it will spend a huge burst of energy to jerk violently and set itself free. But once you lock the fish, it is safe for both of you.
So, what if you do get stung?
It is preferable in all scenarios that you avoid getting stung. But it is not always possible. Accidents happen. You might find yourself punctured, cut, or even bleeding. Catfish barbs are sharp and covered with hemolytic toxins, which prevents blood from clotting.
If you do get injured, be sure to clean the spot with antiseptic as soon as possible. If it is a scratch or puncture, you can disinfect and get to your business just fine, but if you are unlucky and get a big cut, it is highly recommended to abandon fishing and see a doctor immediately.
The catfish barb or their toxin is not the real killer. It’s the germ that enters your body through the opening afterward that poses the real threat.
Fishing is fun and is an enjoyable activity. Most people fish simply for the fun of it. If you are not interested in eating the catch, you should always release the fish unharmed. Some people are worried about the spines of the catfish and tend to maintain more than safe distance.
When they land a catfish on their hook, they prefer to use long-handled pliers to turn or simply shimmy the hook to free it. But when you do so, you may unintentionally rip parts of the fish.
Given that catfishes often swallow their prey whole, in our case, the bait and hook, there is a high chance it will rip their guts and eventually kill the fish, which is inhumane in my opinion. If you know the technique, handling catfishes is more than safe. Proceed with caution, handle with care, let the fish live. Peace!