Everyone has their own personal opinion, but the best eating tends to be 3-5lbs. The younger catfish are usually better eating, as the bigger fish are loaded with toxins. I usually set the bar higher if I need fish for a fish fry. I don’t keep anything over 8lbs.
Why do Smaller Catfish Taste Better?
Smaller catfish taste better because the meat is fresh. The fish is not too old yet, and it probably has little to no toxins in its meat.
It is not only young fish that people like to eat. When we look at other examples, such as veal, lamb, etc… It appears we eat younger food for a reason.
The taste is most of time better, and smaller catfish are relatively easier to catch than larger ones. When a catfish is born, it does not really have many options for feeding. Catfish of this age often eat flies, young insect larvae, and sometimes small crayfish.
They usually populate relatively shallow areas. Creeks, river banks, shallow flats, etc… For the most part these small fish stay out of deep water, which is another reason they taste better. The shallower tucked away spots tend to have less mercury, depending on your location.
The mercury and other toxins tend to settle at the bottom of the river. Mercury is a toxin that is released into the water from pollution and other minerals.
You can be exposed to mercury poisoning if you are not careful. People often get it from eating too much fish or shellfish.
The younger fish have been in the water less time; they have a neutral diet, and have the tender new flesh.
Why do Big Catfish Taste Worse Than Small Catfish?
Big catfish taste worse than smaller catfish because they have more toxins in their meat. The meat of old catfish also tends to get old and mushy, providing a different and more gamey flavor when cooked.
Usually the cut off for eating catfish for me is 8lbs. Anything over that is getting released to live another day. Bigger fish tend to have much more built up toxins in their meat simply from swimming around the river for longer.
Toxins and breathed in through the gills of a catfish, and they do not go away. Fish cannot exactly take a bath, so these toxins build, and build, and build.
Most substances settle at the bottom of the river, so the bottom dwelling fish are what get it the worst. Fish also absorb toxins from the food they eat, so chances are if that food was on the bottom of the river, it is LOADED with toxins.
People will say “big fish taste the same as small fish”, but just remember the health risk of eating those big fish.
What is the Best Catfish Species to Eat?
People will go back and forth on this one, but from personal experience, I say flathead catfish. The meat is very flaky, and fries well. However this is all dependants on diet, and habitat.
Channel catfish has a very firm texture when fried. It can be flaky, but not so much that it flakes out of your hand.
You can add a good amount of flavor to the meat, which has a very mild flavor. The only problem I have found with channels is that I catch them in a lot of muddy areas, so sometimes they have just a hint of mud to the taste.
This of course can all be fixed by soaking the meat, different recipes, etc…
Blue Catfish are comparable to the Channel. The meat is a bit fattier than channel, but still has a very good taste.
Of course again the taste is most influenced by diet and habitat.
Blue catfish is basically a less muddy version of channel catfish. It still has that mild flavor, and flaky texture, but does not really have that muddy taste.
Flathead catfish is the best in my opinion. The flathead catfish eats primarily live fish for its diet, so there is no muddy flavor what so ever.
The diet and habitat of the flathead catfish is part of the reason it tastes so good. The meat is firm, but less firm than the channel and blue, and is much more flaky.
It almost melts in your mouth when you eat it. Flathead are by far the best catfish I have ever eaten. Deep fried flaky meat, you can’t beat it.
For help catching flathead catfish from shore check it out. It is doable!
How Long can Catfish Live?
Catfish can live anywhere from 10-15 years old, and 20-60 years old, depending on the species. This also depends on the habitat and location that catfish populate.
Blue catfish– Blue catfish have been recorded to live from 9-10 years on an average count. It is also stated that there has been records of blue catfish living up to the age of 25.
Channel Catfish– Channel catfish have an average lifespan of 15 years, 5 years longer than the blue catfish. Channel catfish can live past 20 if the conditions are correct.
Flathead Catfish-Flathead catfish have an average lifespan of 20 years old. These fish tend to live longer due to their cannibalistic nature, as they are the top dog out of the channel and blue.
Wels Catfish-Wels Catfish have the largest lifespan of 60 years! This is an extremely long time for a fish to live. Wels catfish are a top predator in the rivers they populate, and have little to no nature predators.
What is the Best Way to Cook Catfish?
The best way to cook catfish is to deep fry. This helps to get rid of the fishy/muddy taste, and it is a classic way of cooking catfish.
You can also bake, bbq, or pan fry catfish. All of these methods provide a great taste, but the most common and best tasting way tends to be the deep fry.
Fried catfish nuggets are very tasty, and are fairly easy to prepare and cook.
The best sized catfish for eating, are usually the smaller ones. Avoid those toxic big fish as much as you can! I know everyone has a different lifestyle and different standards when it comes to eating fish
If you can, CPR the big ones so they can continue to grow and breed. Keep those littler fish so they don’t eat eat the food for the big fish.
Let’s all grow this catfishery together.
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