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Anatomy of a Catfish

Did you know?

Channel Catfish are revered as one of the fiercest fighting fish. Pound-for-pound, this true heavy weight will fight longer and harder than any other fresh water fish. Flathead catfish are sometimes labeled by some as bottom feeders or as preferring to live in muddy water, but actually that is not true.

Channel Cats hunt for their food much like a shark would, and prefer to live in clean water where the bottom is rocky or sandy. Their most important hunting ability is smell.


Catfish have exceptional senses of smell and taste. They can detect molecules of a substance in the water. Because of their similarity, scientists tend to lump both senses together and call it "chemoreception." Chemoreception is critical when finding prey, avoiding predators, locating other channel catfish, coordinating spawning times, and homing in on residence and spawning sites. The sense of smell detects from afar, while taste determines if what is eaten is good once bitten.

Catfish can actually taste items 15 to 20 feet away without biting. They have more than 175,000 taste buds on their body. This is probably the reason many call them "The swimming tongue." Some catfish can detect concentrations of substances of one part per million. That would be like dissolving an ounce of liver in 100,000 railroad tank cars. The keen sense of smell can guide cats to catfishing bait lying hundreds of yards upstream in a river in the middle of the night. Catfish decide which direction to swim by comparing how strong the taste receptors on either side of the body are stimulated.

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