Do Catfish Have Teeth? Here Is The Answer!

Have you ever wondered whether catfish have teeth or not? Catfish are very popular in the world of fishing and there are constantly new questions cropping up about how to catch them, the best bait, and where to find them.

After we catch them, however, the hooks need to be removed from the mouth and if you are an inexperienced angler, you might be wondering whether the species have teeth or not.

This article takes a closer look at the dangers of catfish and whether or not they truly have teeth. Let’s jump right in.


The name “catfish” comes from their long snout which resembles that of a domestic cat. They can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh up to 650 pounds (Mekong giant catfish). Their bodies are covered with bony plates called scutes which help protect them against predators like eels and sharks.

Some people believe that catfish evolved from eel-like fish because they share similar characteristics such as having scales on their body and being able to change color.

Catfish are found all over the globe but are most commonly seen in freshwater environments. Some species live in rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, and even oceans. They prefer to stay near shorelines so that they can feed on small animals that come into contact with the water.

While many people think that catfish only eat plants, these creatures also eat other types of food including insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, and even frogs!

Do Catfish Have Teeth?

The answer is yes! They do indeed have teeth. However, these teeth are located on their lower jaw and are used for defense purposes rather than eating.

Many people believe that catfish have no teeth at all because they don’t see any when they examine the fish closely. But, they’re wrong.

When you take a close look at the bottom of a catfish’s mouth, you will notice small pointed structures which are called “teeth”.

These teeth are made out of bone and are covered with a thin layer of enamel. The purpose of this tooth structure is to help hold onto prey while it’s being eaten. It also helps prevent other predators from biting into the catfish’s flesh.

When catfish feeds, they suck and gulp, and they don’t bite. The teeth are extremely small and dense and resemble hard sandpaper. They are abrasive and tilted inwards, making it easier to get into a catfish’s mouth, than out.

Although catfish have teeth, considering their anatomy, you don’t have to worry about them biting your finger off anytime soon.

There are plenty of anatomically similar catfish varieties. They can hurt or scratch your skin and even make it bleed, yet they can’t hurt you enough that the injury is ever deemed dangerous.

Even if you put your hand into the fishmouth, they can’t really bite you. If you are fishing using traditional methods, after you remove the hook from the catfish mouth you will be able to see how small and insignificant the teeth are.

Can A Catfish Hurt You?

Catfish are generally very harmless. When holding the fish, you should hold the head first as this makes it easier to get your fingers around the mouth, without getting them stuck in the gills or fins.

When handling the catfish, you should always try to avoid the fins. They can be sharp and you could always cut yourself. Although not life-threatening, those cuts are unpleasant. They are hard to handle because of them, but that is the only thing you should be concerned about.

Catfish Bite

Although we have confirmed that catfish have teeth, you might be wondering if their bite can hurt you. Although the pain won’t kill you, it can be unpleasant and is similar to when you rub your skin with sandpaper. It can peel the top layer of skin but nothing more serious than this.

A sting might hurt more and if you have sensitive skin, swelling or edema could happen. You should clean the wound with antiseptic and cover it with a band-aid as soon as possible. 

There are some stories from anglers about different methods of treating a sting but we suggest doing what a doctor would tell you to avoid infection. If handling a catfish was as dangerous as some people believe, there would be a lot less fishing for them than there is.

Catfish Noodling

Noodling for catfish is a way of fishing in parts of the United States, where the catfish is caught by hand.

Before noodling, a lot of people wonder about how many teeth catfish have as you catch it by annoying and pressing the fish to bite your fist and you remove it from the water with your fist in the fish’s mouth.

This can be more dangerous than simply removing the hook. Their teeth are tilted inward and while pulling your hand out of the mouth, you can injure yourself and end up with some scars.

Noodling is best when used for large specimens, as these are heavy and stronger than a hook. They will fight back and drag on your hand so you need to be prepared.

You can also use sleeves to cover arms to avoid abrasions and although not completely protective, it can minimize the number of scars you receive. However, it also answers the question about teeth themselves.

If a fabric material sheet can protect the skin, it proves just how sharp the teeth are.

Are Catfish Poisonous?

Many catfish species have venom in spines and their fins. If you cut yourself on these fins, it might hurt and if you fail to keep the wound clean, just like any other type of wound, it can turn into an infection.

The venom from catfish is not dangerous for humans and this misconception surrounding dangerous venom most likely came from stories about Plotosus lineatus, a genus of catfish that lives in the Indian Ocean.

However, this type of catfish is not like the freshwater catfish we fish. Their venom can be dangerous and toxic for humans, yet an angler fishing in fresh waters will never come across this species.

Although there are around 3000 species of catfish in the world, not many of these are dangerous.

The only reason catfish have venom is for defense from other animals or fish that might attack.

They never use the venom to attack others and this is why they cannot sting you on purpose. Most creatures, whether they belong in the water or on land use poison for catching prey.

Other species use it as protection and these types of animals are only dangerous if mistreated,

Catfish Spines

Catfish do in fact, have spines, just like how they have teeth. However, they are somewhat different. As catfish grow, the spines are less and less sharp with age and that is why it is always harder to handle the smaller fish.

Even flathead catfish have spines and if they ever feel endangered, they point and hold these spines up.

When holding a catfish you can accidentally puncture your skin with sharp spines. Despite how they all have spines, only half of the number of catfish species have venom inside them.

Even if handling venomless catfish, you can still hurt your skin on those spines, yet it will hurt a lot less. The venom that some catfish have is usually a protein that is produced by glandular cells. Those cells are found in the tissue that covers the spines.

Handling Catfish

Catfish have dorsal fins and pectorals similar to those of other fish species. Their whiskers are harmless. Holding them from the back or the top helps prevent injury and your hand should always be behind the dorsal and pectoral spines. Smaller specimens are difficult to handle.

Hold them from the back and if the fish is so small you can use your thumb and forefinger to grasp the body, go with this method. If you accidentally grab a spine-covered fish the wrong way, you could get stung. Spines come off easily when you pull the fish apart.

So you should try to avoid touching fish with spines. You can tell whether or not a fish has spines because it doesn’t have many scales and the larger the catfish, the fewer spines it will have.

Catching Catfish

Catching catfish is easy once you know what kind of bait to use and where to go. Some of the most common places for catching catfish include ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, and even reservoirs.

If your area has a large population of catfish then it will probably be easier to catch them than if there aren’t many around. It also helps to have a good rod and reel so you can cast out far enough to get close to the bottom of the water.

Cleaning Catfish

Once you’ve caught one of these fish, you’ll want to clean it before eating it. To remove the hook, simply pull it straight through the gills.

You may need to cut off the head first. Next, take a sharp knife and slice along the inside of the jawline until you reach the bone.

Then carefully scrape away any remaining flesh. Finally, rinse the fish thoroughly under running water. When cleaning the catfish, make sure to keep it alive by keeping it in freshwater.

What Do Catfish Eat?

The diet of catfish varies depending on their size and location. There are several things that catfish eat such as insects, crustaceans, worms, mollusks, plant matter, and small fishes.

In the wild, they mostly eat plants. They can also eat dead animals. Many people think that catfish don’t eat meat but that’s not true.

Catfish eat a wide variety of foods including frogs, crayfish, shrimp, clams, crabs, mussels, snails, and more. They are opportunistic feeders and as they grow, they can cause problems for native species like trout.

For example, in Florida, catfish compete with bass and bluegill for food and space. As a result, the populations of both bass and bluegill are declining.

How Long Does A Catfish Live?

Most catfish live for about two years. However, some species can live up to 20 years. Catfish are considered an invasive species in many areas.

This means that they can become a problem for native species like trout and salmon. Because of this, many states have banned the importation of catfish into their waters.

Eating Catfish

catfish being grilled on a BBQ

How to Cook Catfish?

Catfish are usually cooked whole. It takes less time to cook a whole catfish than it does to cook individual pieces. The best way to do this is to place the catfish in a baking dish.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes per pound. Remove the cover and continue cooking until the fish flakes. Serve immediately.

Where Can I Buy Fish?

If you don’t feel like fishing, you can buy catfish at local grocery stores, specialty shops, and online retailers. Most reputable sources sell fresh catfish. Fresh fish will smell better than frozen fish. Frozen fish won’t spoil as quickly but it isn’t quite as tasty as fresh fish.

Is Catfish Good For Me?

Yes! Catfish is low in fat and high in protein. It contains lots of B vitamins and minerals. It also provides omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation and improve heart health. Eating catfish regularly can help prevent cancer and other diseases.

Catfish Key Facts

1. Catfish are among the oldest living vertebrates.

2. Catfish are found in every continent except Antarctica.

3. Catfish are often called “crawdad” in North America.

4. Catfish are sometimes referred to as “garpike.”

5. Catfish are usually found in freshwater habitats.

6. Catfish are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and vegetable material.

7. Catfish have been known to prey upon other fish species.

8. Catfish are typically nocturnal predators.

9. Catfish are popular game fish.

10. Catfish are commonly used as farm stock.

11. Catfish are very important to humans.

12. Catfish are highly adaptable and can survive in all kinds of environments.

13. Catfish can change color patterns.

14. Catfish are known to have excellent eyesight.

15. Catfish are known for having strong jaws and teeth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Catfish Have Scales?

No. Catfish lack scales because they spend most of their lives in water.

Does Catfish Eat Other Animals?

Yes. Catfish are carnivores. They eat other fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

What Do Catfish Look Like?

A typical catfish looks similar to a carp or a minnow. Their bodies are elongated and they have large heads. Some varieties of catfish may be striped or spotted.

Are Catfish Called Crawdads?

In North America, catfish are often called crawdads. In Europe and Asia, they’re more likely to be called garpikes.

Why Is Catfish So Popular?

Because catfish are easy to catch, they’ve become a popular food source around the world.

What Does Catfish Taste Like?

Catfish meat has a mild flavor. It’s not overly sweet or salty. It doesn’t have much of a distinctive aroma either.

Final Thoughts

We hope after reading this article you have learned all you need to know about catfish and had your questions answered on whether they have teeth or not.

Remember, although a lot of people think catfish do not have teeth, they actually do and these teeth are located on their lower jaw but are used for defense purposes rather than eating.

If you take a close look at the bottom of a catfish’s mouth, you will notice small pointed structures and these are called “teeth”. Catfish are great fish to catch, cook and eat and we highly recommend you give it a go! Be careful of the spines and you should be fine!

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Tommy Bull
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