You have probably read before that catfish have three sharp spines that can puncture you, but what other parts of the catfish can cause you harm? Do catfish have teeth? Do their barbels sting? Should you lip them? We answer all of these frequently asked questions new anglers may have below.
Do Catfish Have Teeth?
The answer to this question is: yes. Catfish do indeed have teeth. A Catfish’s mouth is inferior, meaning it is oriented downward. They have two types of teeth inside their mouth:
So, let’s take a closer look at a catfish’s mouth and its functions.
A Closer Look at a Catfish’s Mouth
The easiest way to identify a catfish is by its whiskers, located outside of its mouth. These “whiskers” are also known as barbels. These barbels are harmless, and they cannot sting you. A catfish’s barbels are another sensory organ on the fish, and they contain hundreds of tiny tastebuds to help the fish sense when both food and obstacles in their environment are nearby.
Now, let’s examine the inside of a catfish’s mouth. Typically, a catfish has pads of cardiform teeth located on the roof of its mouth. They use this type of teeth to pin their prey down.
Next, located in their gill arches are plates of pharyngeal teeth. Catfish use these teeth to entrap and grind their prey. Since a catfish’s mouth is inferior, their teeth point inward, so it’s easier for baitfish to enter, but it’s harder for them to break out.
Do Catfish Bite?
No, a catfish cannot “bite” down on you; however, they can grasp a hold of your hand with their cardiform teeth. Their teeth won’t pierce you, but they can still cause harm. The cardiform pad is abrasive and rough in texture, like sandpaper.
Should You Lip a Catfish?
Furthermore, many new catfish anglers wonder if it’s still okay to lip or thumb a catfish like they would with a bass. In a nutshell, I would highly recommend not lipping catfish because of the cardiform pads on the roofs of their mouth.
Although a catfish does not have any incisor (sharp) teeth, their cardiform teeth can still grasp hold of your hand. Thus, resulting in the likeliness of you shedding some skin and blood when you try to pull your hand out of their mouth, specifically, with more sizable catfish like blues and flatheads.
Wear Fishing Gloves!
Above all, if you decide to put your hand or thumb in a catfish’s mouth for any reason, please wear fishing gloves to avoid causing harm to yourself. Although a catfish’s teeth may seem small and insignificant, their abrasive pads could cause discomfort to your skin.
Thus, I recommend grasping your hand firmly behind their dorsal and pectoral fins when unhooking and handling catfish.
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Tight lines, everyone!