Catfish is a popular sport fish that many people enjoy eating. Recipes with catfish are found in most countries of the world, since different species of catfish are found on all continents of the world, except Antarctica. Most of the species are found on the American continent. While there is a wide variety, two things all catfish have in common are barbels (or whiskers on the face) and they lack scales.
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North America has 45 different types of catfish. Three of these types contain some of the world’s largest flathead, channel, and blue catfish. Channel catfish are sportfishing with the highest population figures and are the catfish most frequently consumed by humans.
Flathead catfish are predators and are second only to channel catfish when it comes to popularity in sport fishing. Popular with fishermen and also delicious to eat, blue catfish are found in large rivers, such as the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, as well as in the southern states. Blue catfish are also found in Central America, especially Guatemala and Mexico.
The catfish, the only catfish native to Europe, is very large, reaching a maximum of nine feet (2.74 m) in length and weighing more than 150 pounds (68.04 kg). This is because the fresh waters in Europe provide an abundance of food. As a youngster, the catfish feed on insects, but as it ages it begins to feed on other fish and even small birds.
Asia is home to seven different families of catfish. One member of these families is the giant Mekong River catfish in China, which can grow to 10 feet (3.05 m) and weigh 650 pounds (294.84 kg). The average Mekong catfish weighs 30 pounds (13.61 kg). On the opposite spectrum is the Eresthistidae, which is very small, found in streams and growing to a maximum of four inches (10.16 cm). Akysidae catfish are primarily used for aquariums and those in the Bagridae family range from about 1.5 inches (3.81 cm) to almost one foot (30.48 cm) in length.
The Bagridae catfish are also found in Africa, along with five other families of catfish. A special kind was found in Africa in 2006, an eel catfish that leaps out of the water and feeds on insects that crawl on the land. African catfish range in size from small, like the flipped catfish, to large, like the mustache catfish. The flipped catfish got its name because of the inverted position in which it swims. The catfish with a mustache got its name from its mustache-like chins.
South America has five distinct families of catfish in which sizes and colors vary greatly. One catfish, Queen Arabesque Plec, has black and white zebra-like markings and can grow up to four inches (10.16 cm). Many of the South American catfish are used for public and private aquariums around the world. The spade-nosed zebra catfish found on this continent are highly prized among aquarium catfish collectors and can grow up to two feet long.