Do Catfish Have Teeth? [+ 8 Most Common Questions]

Do Catfish Have Teeth

Catfish is very popular fish in the fishing world ...

There are a lot of questions that are frequently asked about how to catch it, do they have scales and bones, what is the best gear and best bait and where to find them.

After we catch it, no matter do we release it or keep it, the hook must be removed from its mouth.

If you never had experience with catfish fishing, that hook removing time is the time a lot of inexperienced anglers ask themselves do catfish have teeth? Can catfish bite me or hurt me? Is it a dangerous fish that can cause severe pain?

In this article you will find the answers to all questions you may have about catfish teeth.



Get my FREE fishing e-book where you will find my PRO Tips!

Free Fishing Ebook

Do Catfish Have Teeth?

If you thought catfish has big strong teeth because it is omnivorous and can eat a variety of food, you were wrong.

Yes, they have some form of teeth, but not in the way we usually imagine them!

Teeth of catfish are quite dull teeth. Those so-called cardiform teeth are placed around the mouth.

Although there are hundreds of cardiform teeth present, there should be no fear from razor-sharp teeth because catfish simply don’t have “standard” ones that could harm the angler.

When they feed they suck and gulp, not bite. Their teeth are very small and they are dense. They resemble very hard sandpaper and abrasive and tilted inwards, so it’s easier to get into cattish mouth than out.

Do Catfish Have Teeth - Hundreds of Cardiform

How Catfish Use Their Teeth When Feeding?

Catfish, have developed unique feeding behaviors and teeth structures to help them catch their prey.

Unlike most predators, catfish do not rely solely on their teeth to rip apart their prey. Instead, they use their teeth to catch their prey and then swallow it whole.

Catfish possess rows of small teeth that line both their upper and lower jaws. These small teeth are not meant for tearing or chewing but rather to help secure their prey.

When hunting, catfish will use their powerful sucking motion to create a vacuum, allowing them to suck in their prey. The rows of teeth then prevent the prey from escaping as the catfish engulfs it.

This feeding behavior is especially effective when the prey is small freshwater fish or other small organisms.

Therefore, if you want to understand catfish feeding habits, it is important to know that their teeth are primarily used to catch and secure their prey rather than for chewing or tearing it apart.

How Many Teeth Do Catfish Have?

Catfish have a unique dental structure, with multiple rows of small, sharp and pointed teeth.

Number of teeth can vary. Larger catfish are known to have more teeth, with some species having as many as 9,000 teeth.

Depending on the species, catfish can have teeth on both their upper and lower jaws, as well as on their tongue and the roof of their mouth.

Flathead catfish, for example, have villiform (tiny hair-like) teeth in their mouths, while blue catfish have teeth that are cardiform (needle-like) in shape.

These teeth help catfish to grasp and consume their prey, which can consist of a variety of aquatic organisms including insects, smaller fish, and crustaceans. 

Do Catfish Have Teeth - How-Many

Can Any Species of Catfish Bite Humans?

Considering the anatomy of their teeth, they can't!

Among various catfish species there are anatomical similarities when in comes to their teeth. Their teeth can inflict superficial wounds to your skin. You can expect scratches, or in a more serious case some small bleeding, however they can`t cause any dangerous wounds.

Even if you put your hand into catfish mouth, they can’t bite off anything. If you are fishing in a traditional way, after you remove the hook from catfish mouth the first time, you will see how insignificant those teeth are.

There are no differences when it comes to biting between channel catfish teeth, or the flathead or even blue. All popular species can be handled in the same way.

Can Catfish Hurt You? Kill You?

Maybe you have heard that it can sting you. That is luckily just a legend and can’t be further from the truth. It will not and it can’t sting you!

When handling the catfish, you should be careful about its dorsal fins. They can be very sharp and you could cut yourself.

Those cuts are very unpleasant but they are not life-threatening. They are tricky to handle because of those fins, and that is the only thing you should be concerned about.

So when holding them, especially small ones, make sure you avoid touching the catfish fins as much as you possibly can.

Do Catfish Have Teeth - Mouth

Can we Touch Catfish? How to Hold it Properly?

Yes, you can touch it. They have a dorsal and pectoral fins similar to many other fish species.

Catfish also have recognizable whiskers which are completely harmless too. Smaller specimens, however, are tricky to hold. The best way is to hold it from the upper side. Your hand should be behind the pectoral and dorsal spines.

If the fish is small enough that your thumb and forefinger can grasp it around its body, this is the way to go.

Remember, it can’t sting you on purpose, you just have to be careful not puncture your skin by grabbing the fish wrong.

The larger the fish, the lesser danger from spines.

You can always protect yourself by using fishing gloves and lip grip tool to get a firm grip while handling the fish. Lip grips are available in almost any tackle store or online if you want to buy one.

Do Catfish Sting or Bite?

Apart from asking do catfish have teeth, the question is whether they bite and does it hurt.

It does hurt but the pain is not severe. It is unpleasant!

Bite is similar to rubbing your skin with sandpaper; it can peel off the top layer on the skin but nothing serious. As already said, catfish teeth are dull. They can get a strong grip on your finger if they close their mouth, however, your finger will stay attached to your hand!

Sting hurts more, but again, nothing spectacular. If you have sensitive skin, swelling or edema could appear. If sting happens, clean the wound with antiseptic. You can cover it with Band-Aid, as you would protect any other wound.

There are some stories circling among anglers about various methods of treating it, but be smart, don’t risk an infection and do what a doctor would tell you if you asked. If handling catfish was as dangerous as some people think, there wouldn’t be so many people doing it.

Do Catfish Have Teeth - Answer

Catch Catfish With Noodling - Yes or No?

Noodling for catfish is a common practice in some parts of United States, where the fish is caught using your hands.

You catch it by provoking the fish to bite your fist and you take it out of the water with your fist in its mouth.

That practice is more dangerous than just removing the hook. As we said, “sand paper” teeth are tilted inwards. While pulling your hand out of the catfish mouth you can get some abrasions and scars.

Noodling (or noodle) is a method used for large specimens, which are heavy and strong. They will fight back and pull on your hand. Luckily, stings are not a big concern here.

While noodling for catfish, people often use sleeves that cover their arms to avoid skin abrasions. It can’t fully protect you but it is useful to have.

So if a piece of fabric can protect your skin, that answers the question about sharpness of teeth.

Are There Any Other Dangers Besides the Catfish Teeth?

As we concluded, catfish can’t bite or sting humans. That are two biggest concerns people usually have.

There are no other hidden dangers about catfish. If you get injured on their sharp fins, which is usually the consequence of not holding the fish properly, take care of your wound.

If you continue fishing, your hand will get wet and different bacteria from water and dirt could infect your wound. Keep it clean and protected, because the biggest danger is infection.

Do Catfish Have Teeth - Infection


If you never handled a catfish, but you plan to do so, learn to do it properly.

That is especially important if practicing catch and release, where gentle and proper handling is essential, for both you and the fish.

Experienced anglers or reliable online sources can help you gather relevant information about local fish species and possible dangers.

There are numerous misconceptions about catfish that sometimes turn people away from fishing for catfish. There is nothing extremely dangerous or life-threatening about handling catfish.

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

Affiliate Disclaimer:

Slo-fishing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. We also participates in eBay Partner Network, FishingBooker, ClickBank and Teespring affiliate programs. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.