Catfish are super popular among fisherman and diners. I don’t know anyone where I live in the American South who doesn’t like fried catfish.
Catfish however are subject of some myths and misconceptions.
#Anglers noodle giant flatheads (ops)—If you have an e-mail address, you have probably seen the photos of anglers in the water with huge yellow-skinned catfish with a subject line like, “Angler’s Noodle World Record Flathead” or something like that. Well for starters, “noodling” is the practice of feeling around with your hands and grabbing catfish by the mouth and wrestling them to shore.
The photos passed around the Internet of anglers with super-sized flatheads are not really flatheads at all. They are Wels catfish from Europe. They look almost exactly like flatheads except for the fins, which grow like a tadpole. And then there is the size. Wels grow up to 10 feet in length and catches of fish over six feet are common. The world record flathead was just over five feet in length.
My wife Lisa and I both caught Wels over seven feet in the Segra River in Spain in 2005 and nearly everyone who sees the photos
thinks they are flatheads until we tell them differently.
The next time you see photos of giant catfish supposedly “noodled” look closely at the fins. It is probably a Wels.
#Man-eating catfish below dams—One of the most common urban legends in the region is the story of divers going below a dam to inspect the walls and seeing catfish “large as a Volkswagen and big enough to swallow a man”. Usually the story is related by someone who said their friends cousin’s uncle was the diver.
I actually dove a reservoir to see if there were any catfish at all around them and came to the conclusion this story originated by someone seeing a catfish of record proportions like the former world record caught on Lake Texoma that weighed over 120 pounds that I got to dive with at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.
Seeing a fish that large in murky water would be frightening and it might seem as if the fish was much larger than it really was. Also, I am sure there are record-sized fish out there. In fact, there are probably some cats either blues or flatheads over 150 pounds that no one has been able to catch.
Seeing one of these at point-blank range would be frightening but probably not life threatening.As for the “Volkswagen-sized catfish”,
maybe on a Godzilla movie but not in real life.
Chester Moore, Jr.