So, Can You Eat Catfish for Survival?

Anytime you find yourself in a survival situation, be it a short-term emergency or a long-term survival scenario, supplementing your food stores with wild-caught animal protein might make the difference between life and death.


Unfortunately, the vagaries of your circumstances might mean that you wind up eating meat that is anything but your usual fare.

On the other hand, most animals are safe to eat and nutritious so long as they are prepared properly. When it comes to procuring wild caught animal protein, fish are some of the easiest to get.

But how about catfish? Can you eat catfish and a survival situation?

Yes, catfish are completely safe and nutritious to eat so long as they are properly prepared and cooked. Catfish is particularly high in potassium, vitamin B12, and vitamin B1, making it a great supplemental food.

Most preppers, or at least the ones who live anywhere near a larger body of water, or already planning on fishing to pad their pantry or just get dinner in a survival situation, and no catfish is usually a love it or hate it food you shouldn’t turn it down if you are hungry, and especially if it is the only thing you can get easily.

And the rest of this article we will tell you everything you need to know about eating catfish in a survival scenario.

How to Clean and Cook Delicious Catfish

Where are Catfish Found?

Catfish, in all their many species, can be found in both coastal and inland waters all over the world, from North America to Africa to Asia; the only continent they are not found on is Antarctica.

More than half of all known species are found in the Americas, meaning that if you live in the western hemisphere you are in luck- catfish will definitely be on the menu! 

These fish live in predominately freshwater, but a few species are salt water-dwellers.

While they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, most species have two things in common: ray fins and “whiskers”, the latter actually being barbels which they use to help them find food in the murky waters they typically inhabit.

Catfish are also known for their delicious flesh, which is why they are popular as both a sport fish and a food source. So the next time you’re out near a lake or river, keep an eye out for these fascinating fish.

Catfish Nutrition Info

Catfish, like most fish, is low in calories and dense in nutrients compared to the meat of terrestrial animals.

Catfish has lots of protein and good fats, and a surprisingly good amount of vitamins and minerals, several of which can be hard to come by when food is scarce.

Among these nutrients are huge amounts of vitamins B12 and D, with respectable amounts of B1, B3, and B5.

Minerals are also well-represented, with phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, and potassium all being found in large quantities.

A great source of energy and protein along with a traffic amount of nutrients makes catfish a great catch in any survival situation!

Does Catfish Taste Good?

Among fish, catfish has a unique taste, usually being described as firm, not flaky, and with a sweet richness to it compared to most other whitefish species. However, some detractors describe it as a “muddy,” “dirty” or gritty tasting.

The good news is that, even plain, catfish is pretty tasty or at least not objectionable when properly prepared and cooked, and it also takes seasonings and special preparation wonderfully if you have ingredients. Some fresh herbs, sauces, breading, and pan frying can turn out a wonderful meal.

All in all, not much to complain about with catfish.

Is it Safe to Eat Raw Catfish?

No! You should never eat any fish raw, but especially not catfish.

Eating any fish raw is dangerous because of the parasites that can infest them. These critters are usually killed when the fish is cooked, but gentle cooking doesn’t always kill all the bacteria that may be present. You need to cook it well done and all the way through.

This is doubly true for catfish, as their flesh compared to other species often contains bacteria or parasites that can easily make you sick if not cooked.

Now, I can hear all the sushi lovers raising a protest already: “What about sushi? Sushi is raw and it does not make you sick”!

While it is technically raw, sushi-grade fish is a different story. Sushi chefs take extra care to only use the very freshest and highest possible quality fish to prevent foodborne illness.

So while you might be able to get away with eating some raw fish in this way you definitely should not take the chance in a survival situation unless you are utterly desperate.

Keep in mind that even simple food poisoning might spell death from dehydration, incapacitation, or other complications in the middle of a survival situation, and that isn’t even considering the truly nasty bugs you might pickup from raw catfish.

Can You Eat Catfish Skin?

Yes, but it isn’t very good and is discarded as a rule. Catfish don’t have scales that can turn flaky and crispy, but rather have a smooth flesh that can turn rubbery after cooking- it is not worth eating unless you are utterly desperate!

Some types of catfish elsewhere in the world, however, have skin that is thinner and more delicate than the usual domestic species we commonly eat in the U.S.

These might be worth considering in a survival situation when every scrap of food counts.

Are Catfish Eggs Safe to Eat?

Yes! If you can locate the eggs, they are edible and quite nutritious.

They can be difficult to find as the female catfish often lays them in a hidden hole, itself in murky water, but if you can find them they make a great addition or supplement to a meal.

Don’t eat them raw like caviar; a quick fry or roasting in a folded leaf is all it takes to make them more palatable and safe.

Can You Eat Catfish Bones?

No. In fact, you should take great care to avoid catfish bones when eating whole fish, or else thoroughly debone the fish prior to cooking.

Catfish bones are notorious for being very flexible, sharp, and may easily cause choking if accidentally swallowed. Not a fun experience, trust me.

Cooked catfish flesh will easily come off the bone, but make sure you chew slowly and deliberately before swallowing as even a small bone could get lodged in your throat.

Are the Organs of a Catfish Safe to Eat?

Fish organs are safe to eat but rarely palatable. This includes the organs of the catfish.

If you are, again, desperate for every spare calorie you can get, then go ahead and give them a try- but otherwise you should skip them.

The entrails of the fish especially are full of bacteria that could make you very sick if not cooked thoroughly.

Handle Catfish Cautiously!

Catfish are somewhat notorious for possessing spines or “stingers” on their fins which can give a nasty puncture wound.

These are used as a defense mechanism and not for attacking prey, but you should still be cautious when handling them to avoid being cut or stabbed by one, especially a large and strong specimen!

While the sting is not poisonous (with one exception) it can easily get infected in dirty water, so take care if this happens and clean the wound thoroughly as best as you can. It would be terrible to be done in by your would-be dinner.

Also, should you live in an area where the striped eel catfish is present, use extreme caution: these catfish do indeed have deadly venomous spines on their fins, and a single sting can easily kill a human!

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