A Few Facts About Catfish Food And Feeding Habits
A list of catfish food could in one sense contain anything palatable and small enough for the catfish to ingest. In almost all cases, catfish food needs to be a size that can be swallowed whole, as the catfish rarely if ever chews its food. The catfish has a reputation for being a scavenger, and also as being an opportunistic eater, and is in truth a little of both.
The catfish has a highly developed sense of smell, and any food item that has any scent at all will attract the fish. It would seem like that as far as attracting a catfish to a fish hook is concerned, the smellier the better would be the rule of thumb as far as catfish bait is concerned. Most fishermen more or less stick to this rule, although it’s been shown, though not necessarily proven, that the catfish prefers live food, mostly smaller fish.
While there are a number of different species of catfish, the diets of the various species often differ only with respect to the kinds of food available where a particular species lives. Most of the catfish species live in countries bordering the Atlantic and Indian oceans. There are few Pacific species, if any. In the United States, most catfish are found in the southern states and in the Midwest. The predominant species in the United States is the channel catfish.
A Flat Head With A Purpose - Most catfish species are bottom feeders. They have very wide mouths and flattened heads which they can use to scoop and move around mud and muck in search of their favorite catfish food. As they move about, they ingest much of what they come across by seeming to just vacuum it up. For smaller species, or very young catfish, catfish food consists primarily of bottom dwelling creatures, aquatic insects and insect larvae, and small invertebrates, including fish smaller than themselves.
Mature and larger catfish subsist on a diet of fish as long as other fish are plentiful. They will not hesitate however to supplement the fish diet with anything else that is available or may float by. This is where the reputation as a scavenger comes in as catfish provide an excellent environmental service in cleaning up a lake or stream bed of rotting or decaying fish and decaying animal matter.
A Movable Feast - Even larger catfish will eat insects, and lake dwelling catfish can often be found where a stream is emptying into a lake, carrying with it an abundance of insect life and other nutrients. Lake dwelling catfish in the Midwest will often feast in the spring on catfish food consisting of fish or animals that have died in the water during the winter and whose carcasses have become frozen in the ice. During the summer and into the fall, the food shifts to insects, frogs, seeds, crayfish and some forms of algae. It is obvious that catfish food does not consist of just one or two choices, but is a feast that is ever changing with the seasons.
Commercially Raised Catfish - Many if not most of the catfish we eat today have been raised on catfish farms, located mostly in the southern states, though they can be found in other parts of the country as well. It would seem that the catfish farm would be one place where a standard catfish food would be the norm. This isn't the case. Commercial catfish foods have been marketed for some time, but what a catfish farmer will actually choose depends on a number of factors, including fish size, density of fish, the need if any for antibiotics or other special ingredients, and the age of the fish to be fed. Fish fry are fed a completely different food than is the case for the mature fish. Fingerlings are usually fed a floating food. Some fish farmers may rely totally on floating feed, others on feed that sinks slowly, and still others, a combination of both. Commercial catfish food is usually produced with both the health and growth rate of the fish in mind. Certain specific ratios or percentages of protein are usually specified, depending upon whether the fish to be fed are fry, fingerlings, or more mature specimens. Commercial fish food remains at present a rather subjective and inexact science.