Catfish have been a staple of North American cuisine throughout recorded history. Native Americans ate them, as did European explorers and the earliest settlers.
In fact, our hankering for delicious catfish has done nothing but grow, with catfish now among the most popular American food fishes.
Some catfish anglers fish primarily for trophy specimens like big blue cats and flatheads, which can weigh more than 100 pounds. These usually are caught, photographed and released.
But most catfish fans hope to catch a mess of 1- to 10-pounders (usually channel cats) they can take home and prepare for the dinner table. Smaller cats are much more abundant and delicious than their heavyweight counterparts.
When the catching is done, those of us who enjoy eating our catch must then separate the catfish from its skin to get at the flaky, white meat inside. These whiskered warriors are scaleless, so their skin has evolved into a thin yet very tough covering.
Were you to try cooking the fish with its skin on, as we do many panfish, you would find the skin is too tough and chewy to eat. It must be removed before the fish is cooked.
As a reminder, use great care to avoid the catfish’s sharp dorsal and pectoral fin spines throughout the skinning process. If you’ve ever wondered how to skin a catfish the right way, check out these great tips. You’ll be glad you did.
- Many anglers consider skinning a catfish a daunting task, but with a sharp knife and a set of skinning pliers, it is really quite simple. Skinning pliers (pictured here) are available from many fishing-tackle suppliers and have wide jaws specially made for gripping the catfish’s thin, slippery integument. Regular pliers will work in a pinch, but they won’t do the job nearly as well as good skinning pliers.
About the Author
With a resumé listing more than 3,800 magazine, newspaper and website articles about fishing, hunting, wildlife and conservation, Keith “Catfish” Sutton of Alexander, Ark., has established a reputation as one of the country’s best-known outdoor writers. In 2012, he was enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator. The 12 books he’s written are available through his website.