Inexpensive gear requirements, “set it and forget it” style of fishing, and the ability to use almost anything as bait, it’s no wonder that Channel Catfish are one of the first fish any aspiring angler will set out to catch! As outdoorsmen, we are always asking ourselves the age-old question, “Can I Eat That?”.
So, are channel catfish good to eat? Channel Catfish are not only good to eat but they are a staple in many small communities across the U.S. The misconception of them not being good to eat could come from their appearance or nature as a bottom feeder. It could also stem from the fact that larger catfish(above 5lbs) can have a “muddy” taste to them. Luckily, their appearance has no bearing on taste and the “muddy taste” is completely avoidable!
Today we’re going to look into the best practices for preparing and cooking Channel Catfish after you’ve caught them for your next dinner.
Understanding Channel Catfish
Channel Catfish are a very versatile fish, in many ways they are very much like Blue Catfish, and Flathead Catfish. They are the smallest of the catfish family, yet still grow quite large and can easily reach up to 20 lbs!
The average size Channel Catfish you will find out fishing is going to be anywhere from 1lb on the smaller side to around 5lbs. For our purposes, I would suggest looking for Catfish that are between 3 and 5lbs.
Anything lighter than that, it will hardly be worth filleting and anything heavier than that, you will start to notice a “muddy” taste to the meat. For those, I suggest taking the grip and grin photo to send to your buddies and releasing it back to the water to hopefully make more catfish for you to catch later!
The Basics of Catching a Channel Catfish
One thing to understand is that in fishing, just like hunting, hiking, and pretty much every other outdoor hobby it is very easy to be convinced that you need the biggest, newest, and most expensive gear.
This isn’t true.
To fish for catfish, I suggest getting a solid pole such as an Ugly Stik, with some 20lb test line, For bait, use what you have. I’ve seen more Channel Cat caught using a piece of hotdog or chicken liver than I have anything else.
You want something that will drag the bottom and get in front of their face. Cast the line out and either hold it still, or put it in a holder. Then it’s time to kick back and relax until you feel the line “bumping”. At that point, just set the hook and real it in!
How to Prepare the Channel Catfish
The first step in properly cooking catfish starts on the bank of the river! It is essential to get the blood out of the meat to avoid having that “fishy taste” To properly bleed out a catfish, cut both gills and move around in cool water for 20-30 seconds.
Be careful when doing this(or anytime you’re holding a catfish) as they have spikes in their fins. Just get in front of the fin with your hand and push it backwards, it will relax and be out of the way.
After the fish is bled out, go ahead and fillet it like you would any other fish. This will help remove any lingering “fishy” or “muddy” taste, 20 minutes should suffice.
Alternatively, if you still have quite a bit of blood in the meat, instead of milk you can submerge them in saltwater. You will need to let them soak overnight for it to properly work, but the saltwater will pull the blood out.
Now a lot of people might still be hesitant to eat a bottom feeder that you just pulled out of a local river. Fear not! I have 3 classic Channel Catfish dishes that are sure to win over even the most pick eaters in your house.
3 Picky Eater Catfish Pleasers
Fried Catfish Sandwiches
First up we have the classic fried catfish! You’ll take your fillets and dip them in an egg wash, then breading of your choice mixed with seasoning, and fry until golden brown. For seasoning, I am a huge fan of cajun seasoning, salt, and fresh cracked pepper.
Tartar sauce for dipping is what I always go to but some people like ketchup, vinegar, or just a little lemon.
Done this way it will taste like most any other white-meat fish such as Walleye or Bass and is sure to be a family favorite.
This is one of our staples when doing a large fish fry, it’s fast and easy to do when trying to feed a large crowd!
Baked Catfish with Tomato Sauce
You will need catfish filets, tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, and your choice of spices. Cover the Catfish with olive oil, sprinkle your spices on the filets, smear the tomato sauce over the filets, and bake in the oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Just like that in about half an hour of work you have a delicious dinner for the family, and it’s a little healthier than frying the catfish!
Fried Catfish Sandwiches
Lastly we have the fried catfish sandwiches! The best part about this one is that there is about no right or wrong way to make this.
You’ll take your fillets and dip them in an egg wash, then breading of your choice mixed with seasoning, and fry until golden brown, just like we did with the first recipe.
From there, it’s up to you but I recommend a little lettuce, tartar sauce, tomato, and cheese. Add whatever you’d like, as I said, there’s really no wrong way to do this!
Alternative Way to Eat Channel Catfish
If you scour the internet long enough you will find hundreds of different ways to cook a Channel Catfish, the 3 recipes I listed don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you can make with this fish.
Everything from Catfish Tacos, Vietnamese Style Catfish, Nashville Style Fish Sandwiches, Catfish Parmesan, Catfish Creole and so many more.
At the risk of sounding like Bubba from Forest Gump going on about the different ways to make shrimp, I’ll digress but it’s important to know that it doesn’t stop here.
Personally, I try to challenge myself to make a new dish anytime I can, even if I’m using an ingredient I’ve cooked with 100 times before! It makes meal time more interesting, some may be a smash hit, some may be a one time thing, but either way it is sure to be interesting!
So, Are Channel Catfish Good to Eat?
YES! Channel Catfish are not only good to eat but they are a staple in many small communities across the U.S. The misconception of them not being good to eat could come from their appearance or nature as a bottom feeder. It could also stem from the fact that larger catfish(above 5lbs) can have a “muddy” taste to them.
Luckily, their appearance has no bearing on taste and the “muddy taste” is completely avoidable! It’s all about how you prepare them and cooking them properly! So go down to your local pond, creek or river, put a hot dog or chicken liver on a hook, and go catch dinner.
Your family will thank you, and you will have a sense of accomplishment few experience anymore. Catching, Cleaning, and Cooking your own dinner is a dying art and something I believe everyone should experience at least once.
I guarantee it will be something you will want to do over and over again.