How To Hold A Catfish

Smaller catfish are what you’ve got to watch for and be careful with, especially the really small ones. Once the fish reach about sixteen to eighteen inches the spines are much duller and the chance of being finned is greatly reduced.

Fish larger than two to three pounds are rarely a concern. Smaller catfish are a different story though and the smaller they are the more careful you have to be. Injuries from small catfish fins or spines usually occur during the release of the fish. You’re holding them, you remove the hook, and at some point, you go to release the fish into the water or put it in an ice chest and “BAM”, it happens, you get finned by the fish.

Even though catfish don’t sting, it can be uncomfortable, painful even when you get finned.

There are two approaches you handling smaller cats to keep from getting hurt.

  1. Small Cats – Holding the fish from the top is the preferred method. Place your hand directly behind the pectoral and dorsal spines. Put the area between your thumb and forefinger resting behind the dorsal spine. This is the preferred method of holding or handling any catfish that’s small enough for you to get your hand around and hold firmly. As the fish get larger (up to about two or three pounds), this approach becomes more difficult. Some anglers prefer to hold the catfish from the top, putting their hand in front of the dorsal fin and behind the pectoral fins.
  2. Medium Cats – Fish from one to two pounds up to about seven or eight pounds can usually be handled as outlined above (in front of the dorsal fin and behind the pectoral fins). They’re relatively easy to handle until they’re a size that you cannot easily get your hand around. The best bet for handling fish you can’t get your hand around is using a “lip grip” like the Berkley Big Game Lip Grip or the Team Catfish Lip Grips.
  3. Big Cats – Getting finned by big fish is rarely an issue. Scoop them up with a dip net and use lip grips to handle them during landing, photographs, and the live release (please practice catch and release of larger catfish). Be careful sticking your hand in the mouth of a big catfish, their mouths are much more dangerous than their fins!

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