Do Catfish Have Teeth? Here is The Answer!

Do Catfish Have Teeth

Catfish is very popular fish in the fishing world. A lot of new anglers are interested in catfish too.

There are a lot of questions that are frequently asked about how to catch it, 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?

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



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What kind of teeth do catfish have?

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

They have some form of teeth, but not in the way we usually imagine them.

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

And that leads us to the next question ...

Can a catfish bite your finger off?

Considering the anatomy of their teeth, the answer is no.

There are a lot of catfish varieties and they are anatomically similar. They can hurt your skin, scratch it, even make it bleed, but they can’t hurt you enough so that the injury is considered dangerous.

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.

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Can catfish hurt you? Kill you?

Now we know the catfish will not bite us, but what about other dangers?

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 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 a catfish, especially small ones, make sure you avoid touching the fins as much as you possibly can.

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Are catfish poisonous?

One more popular question, except do catfish have teeth, is: are they poisonous for humans?

There are a lot of catfish species and some of them do have venom in spines on their fins. If you cut yourself onto those fins, it may hurt a lot, if you don’t keep the wound clean it can develop an infection later, but that is the case with any kind of wound.

The venom from catfish is not dangerous for humans in any way. This myth about dangerous venom probably came from stories about Plotosus lineatus, which is a genus of catfish that lives in some parts of Indian Ocean and it is not even similar to catfish that we fish. Their venom can be dangerous for humans but an average angler fishing in fresh waters will never cross paths with that fish.

There is about 3000 species of catfish around the world, and if some of them are dangerous, that does not necessarily mean others are too.

Why do catfish have venom if they are not poisonous for humans?

Well, they have it for defense from other animals and fish that might attack them.

They don’t use venom to attack others. That is also one of the reasons they can’t sting you on purpose.

Most of the animals, on land and in water, which use poison for incapacitating their prey, can inject the venom on purpose. Other species, which have venom as protection, can’t use it in that way and are dangerous only if mistreated.

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Do all catfish have spines?

The answer to that question is the same as the answer to “do catfish have teeth”. YES! They all have spines.

But they are somewhat different.

As catfish grow bigger, the spines become less sharp. That is why handling smaller fish is harder.

Even species like flathead catfish have spines. When they feel endangered they point and hold their spines up.

When holding a catfish it is easy to accidentally puncture your skin with those spines. Despite the fact they all have spines; half of the total number of catfish species has venom in them.

Even if handling those without venom, you can still hurt your skin on those spines, but it will hurt a bit less. The venom that some catfish species have is actually a protein that is produced by glandular cells. Those cells are located in tissue covering the spines.

Do Catfish Have Teeth - Mouth

Can we touch catfish? How to hold it properly?

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

They 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.

Catfish sting or bite – does it hurt?

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.

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.

What about noodling for catfish?

Noodling for catfish is a common practice in some parts of United States, where the fish is caught using your hands. Before trying noodling, many people ask do catfish have teeth. 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 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.

Do catfish eat other fish in a pond?

As we already mentioned catfish are omnivorous. Their diet consists of plants, invertebrates, algae, fish eggs and other fish.

It depends of catfish species. They are opportunistic feeders. As they grow, their food becomes bigger, and from small invertebrates they transfer to small fish. Some catfish species, like flathead catfish, prefer to feed on other small fish.

Despite that, they still have the same teeth as mentioned and they are not dangerous for humans.

There have been documented cases of catfish eating dead fish too. But that will happen only of other food sources are unavailable.

Are there some other dangers that people are unaware of?

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.

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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. Always inform yourself about fish by reading the reliable sources or asking experienced anglers for help.

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.

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