Do All Catfish Sting (and How NOT to Get Stung)

Imagine a venomous animal: a snake, scorpion, mosquito, or spider. Maybe it’s a catfish; I bet that’s not what you pictured, is it?

But, do all catfish sting? Catfish do sting but are not stingers in the traditional way. Catfish can sting you with their sharp and pointed pectoral and dorsal fins. Some catfish species are more poisonous than others, and also, many catfish species have venom glands on their fins. 

Are you wondering how not to get stung? Why do catfish sting? And how painful is the catfish sting? Continue reading to learn more about catfish stings.

Do All Catfish Sting? 

catfish in hand to answer do all catfish sting

All catfish can sting. Moreover, their sting is painful, but it is not that awful, and the pain won’t last for a long time. 

Usually, catfish sting pain lasts for a few minutes to six hours maximum. The issue is not the pain but the secondary infection that can result from the sting itself. 

The younger catfish are always more toxic than the older ones. These younger catfish which weigh under 3lbs, have very sharp and pointed fins that can cut your skin like a knife. 

These sharp fins will become duller as they grow up.

How do catfish sting you?

Catfish are not aggressive fish, but they won’t hesitate to sting you with their dorsal or pectoral fins once they feel they are in danger. 

The dorsal fin is located on the midline of the catfish’s back and the pectoral on the fish’s side. The top of these fins is very sharp, especially on small catfish. 

The spines in these fins contain venom that causes edema and increases the wound area’s blood flow.

Stings are more common in saltwater catfish than in freshwater catfish. 

The small catfish spines are sharp and pointed, while the large catfish spines are dull and harmless. By the way, the anatomy of the Catfish is quite fascinating, and you can learn more about it in this article on do catfish have hair or whiskers.

How painful is a catfish sting? 

While catfish sting pain lasts for a short time, anglers always talk about catfish sting pain as the most hurt they have ever experienced, and in some cases, the stings pain could last for three months, especially when the fish fin penetrates deep into your skin.

Catfish’s venom can lead to a severe infection such as bacterial superinfection, Aeromonas.

How to hold a catfish correctly so you don’t get stung 

The secret to not getting finned by the catfish is a firm grip. Especially when you catch a small catfish. Each catfish’s size needs to be held differently.

Here is the way to hold a catfish:

Small catfish (one to three pounds)

If you catch a catfish that can fit in your hand, the best way to handle it is by holding it from the top behind the pectoral and dorsal spines. Behind the dorsal spine, but the area between your thumb and forefinger. 

Medium catfish (three to seven pounds)

Anglers always prefer to hold it from the outlined above. Put your hand behind the pectoral fins and in front of the dorsal fin.

Giant catfish (more than seven pounds)

Big fish fins are dull and won’t harm you. But they are too heavy to handle with your hands, and it is better to use a lip grip. At this fish size, you need to be careful of their mouth; it is more dangerous than the fins.

Here is a video showing you the right way to hold a catfish

You can learn more about the dangers of catfish in this article on are catfish dangerous to touch.

How to treat a catfish sting? 

Now, what if you are not so lucky and have got stung. Let us see how to treat your wound.

There are two ways to treat your wound. Doctors recommend one, and the other one is based on anglers’ experience. 

The doctor’s recommendations to treat catfish sting are:

  • Soaking your wound in warm water will reduce the damage.
  • Clean the wound with fresh water.
  • If there is a spine in the wound, try to remove it using a tweezer.
  • Don’t tape or sewn the wound together
  • You may need a tetanus shot, and an oral antibiotic is good for stings.
  • Usually, doctors recommend taking the antibiotic after the signs of the infection have cleared for five days.
  • Taking acetaminophen every four hours or ibuprofen every six to eight hours will ease the pain.

The angler’s recommendation to treat catfish sting is:

  • Once you get finned, rub puncture on the fish belly for ten to fifteen seconds, and the pain will almost stop immediately.

For me, the doctors’ recommendations are more convincing to treat a wound; what do you think?

 How to release a catfish to avoid stings? 

When you want to release a small catfish, the easiest way to remove it is a rapid drop by opening your hand and moving it away quickly. This will keep you away from the stings. 

If the fish has a hook inside its jaw and it is one of the giant catfish, releasing it will be more challenging. 

You will need to wear thick rubber gloves to keep your hands safe while unhooking the fish, then carry it from its jaw and drop it.

Wrap up

All catfish can sting while the smaller catfish fins are sharper than the more giant catfish. They use their pectoral and dorsal fins to sting, so you won’t get stung if you hold it in the right way.

The best way to hold a catfish is a firm grip behind the dorsal spine. If the fish is heavier than three pounds, hold the outlined above. Once you get finned, soak your wound in warm water to ease the pain and follow the doctor’s recommendations to treat your injury.

The simplest way to realize a catfish without getting stung is rapid drop.

Outdoorskilled’s Recommended Gear for Superb Catfishing

I’ve tested dozens of reels, rods, and lines for Catfishing, and after years of testing, here are my quick picks that will definitely improve your current setup and results!

My recommended reel is the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Reel C3-7000 which is ideally suited for catfish.

The rod I always recommend is the KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rod. It’s lightweight, durable, and affordable. Furthermore, you’d have a wide selection of models to choose from, whether you’re looking for a spinning or casting rod. Lastly, it comes in twin-tips models, which means you’ll be getting two rods rather than one.

What I use is the Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Fishing Line as it’s the strongest, toughest mono I’ve ever tested and because it has exceptional shock strength, great knot integrity, tremendous abrasion resistance, and a high-visibility color option, you really can’t find better options

Related Questions 

What is the most common site of catfish stings?

The most common site for catfish stings is the hand. The catfish stings are painful, but if you treat them correctly and take the antibiotic, your wound will be healed, but if you ignore it or treat it wrong, the wound will develop gangrene and require cutting your wound area it is a finger or the hand.

Helpful Resources 

Channel Catfish

Resources for Catching Catfish Faster and More Easily

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