Do Catfish Sting?

It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re Rick Clunn or Michael Iaconelli, not everyone knows about every single fish in the world.

Our oceans are believed to have only been around 20% discovered, with new species of marine life being discovered every day.

So it comes as no surprise that when catching fish, a lot of people don’t know about certain aspects of different fish and how they can harm us.

Catfish fall under this bracket, many believe that they can sting humans. We’ve researched the species of fish and their features to answer your question.

History Of Large Catfish

Catfish are a diverse group of ray-finned fish, named to do with their prominent barbels that are featured throughout their body.

The catfish also gets its name from their whiskers at the front of their face, resembling the facial feature similar to cats’ whiskers.

Catfish can grow to all sorts of shapes and sizes throughout their lives and vary in behavior depending on where they originate from.

The three largest catfish species in the world are all found in different areas of the world. The Mekong giant catfish is the first of these types of catfish and is native to the freshwater bodies around Asia and China.

This species is considered endangered due to the dwindling environments in which the fish resides.

The giant catfish is regarded as a very quick grower throughout its life, growing to a length of around 3 meters when fully grown, reaching a weight of around 330 to 440 pounds.

The second species of catfish in this list is the Paraiba, also known as Kuma Kuma to the native people of South America.

This large species of catfish belong to the Pimelodidae family and genus Brachyplatystoma, originating from Amazon River basins, extending to Orinoco River basins and fluvials in Guianas and northeastern Brazil.

When fully grown, an adult Paraiba can grow to a length of approximately 2.8 meters. Easily recognized with dark spots on their light grey skin, their dorsal fin features pink shading and is easy to spot if caught by fishermen.

This big fish has a piscivorous diet, mainly feeding on loricariids and other species of bottom-dwelling marine life.

The third large species of catfish on our list is the wels catfish scattered about the water bodies of Eurasia.

This fish is famously native to the Baltic, Black, and Caspian Seas and can now be found as far east in the UK, as well as in more western areas of Kazakhstan and China, on top of southern areas like Greece and Turkey.

The freshwater fish, also known as the sheatfish, is widely recognizable because of its broad head and wide mouth.

This specific species of catfish can live for around 50 years, growing to anywhere between 1.3 and 1.6 meters in length, weighing up to 44 pounds.

Can A Catfish Sting Me?

Amongst catfish fishermen throughout the world, it’s commonly known that catfish skin can sometimes cause some irritation towards humans, no matter where on your body.

The catfish’s skin contains a toxin that is usually innocuous but has been known to cause irritation if an individual has an allergic reaction.

However, the catfish species has a prominent dorsal fin that can cause damage to humans, by releasing a venom that can cause a pretty nasty sting.

This venom is also produced from the fish’s pectoral spines, which can also cause a stinging sensation to those who come into contact with it. 

Of course, the most common area on the human body that is going to get sung by the catfish is the hands. However, due to the size of the fish, it’s frequent that people may be stung on their arms when holding the fish.

There are also recorded cases of humans being stung on the bottom of their feet after accidentally standing on a catfish when walking through a body of water.

A lot of catfish are bottom-dwellers and can often be stood on if walking barefoot.

The sting itself of the fish can be extremely painful and can cause severe inflammation around the site of contact.

If stung by a catfish then it’s important to seek medical attention by calling a doctor or taking a trip to the nearest infirmary or medical practice.

Catfish stings aren’t usually life-threatening, however, they can cause a lot of discomfort to the person affected.

The symptoms that come with catfish stings can often be calmed with over-the-counter drugs, reducing the redness and inflammation.

Do Catfish Sting?

How To Treat Catfish Stings At Home

It can be expensive when taking trips to the doctors or the emergency room, so there are a few ways to treat your catfish sting before heading to a professional.

These can be good for lesser injuries but we recommend that if the injury requires, going to the hospital is better to be safe than sorry.

Immersing the affected area of your body in hot water is a useful way to stop the proteins in the venom from activating, majorly reducing the pain from the sting.

It’s important to note that hot water is only healthy if using a temperature that you’re comfortable with. You can’t treat a sting with burnt skin!

You should also remove the stings very carefully, with either tweezers or some sort of tool that reduces the amount of contact with the affected area.

As with any other injury, you should look to clean the wound as soon as you can to prevent possible infection. Using warm water with soap is a great way to stop the spread of germs and harmful bacteria.

Using a soft cloth, gently scrub the area whilst frequently rinsing to keep you clean.

Do not use dermal glue or stitch together the wound, it needs time to breathe and heal with oxygen.

If the wound becomes infected, you must contact your doctor and get antibiotics or other painkillers to help treat the injury. These should be used for around 5 days after using the treatment.

Final Thoughts

Catfish stings are very common amongst fishermen and it’s crucial that you don’t panic. These injuries are rarely fatal and often just irritate your skin.

Avoiding the venomous dorsal fin and pectoral spines is the best course of action when trying to avoid a catfish sting.

There are lots of ways to treat the injury before taking a trip to the hospital, so get yourself back on the track to recovery and back on those lakes!

George Alexander
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