What Do Catfish Eat? 13 Foods You Need To Know

There are many opinions on which bait is the best to use for Catfish fishing, but the answers remain unclear. According to some experienced anglers, several different types of bait work well in catching catfish. Stink baits and dip baits are popular among anglers; some say the finest catfish bait is live fish and nightcrawler; some prefer sliced baits for catfish; some choose to fish with chicken livers and hot dogs.

So, to answer which bait is the most suitable for catfish, we will learn more about the food of some popular catfish species through this article.

Catfish In General

Catfish are fish with long barbels coming out from the sides of their faces, resembling cat whiskers. There are many different types of catfish, with the channel catfish being the most commonly found. Catfish can live in both freshwater and saltwater, depending on the type of catfish.

Most catfish have a diet consisting primarily of vegetation. Omnivores are a common trait among fish in nature. Others feed opportunistically, depending on what they find to be most nutritious. Some species of animals are only carnivorous and cannot digest plant material. Likewise, a few types of catfish are parasites, which means they live off of other creatures.

That is why the variety of bait you can catch is so wide. If you can use something that isn’t food as bait, you can tell that catfish are not picky eaters. How and what a catfish eats mainly depends on the waterway in which it lives. Numerous catfish are to eat food drifting on the outer layer of water.

How Catfish Eat

Do you ever wonder whether catfish wait for food to come to them or actively search for food? To answer this question, you may bear in mind that they are scavengers, which means they are consistently keeping a search out for the bait. They appear to lean toward new foods, but tàhey will also eat dead creatures or available fish. Catfish use the barbels, which have both taste and smell, all over to look for prey and assist them in finding food in the dark, muddy water habitat.

What Catfish Eat?

Blue Catfish

They identified the blue catfish as the giant catfish in North America, with the most prominent trophy blues weighing 100 pounds. As you might expect, their diet reflects their size. The blue catfish will consume almost anything, including crabs, crayfish, clams, mussels, and other small-to-medium-sized baitfish. However, if an occasion arises, they are not averse to consuming other blue catfish.

Blue catfish are opportunistic feeders, which means they may eat strange things that amaze the researchers. They have conducted some research and discovered a wide range of strange objects in the stomachs of blue catfish, including surgical gloves, metal, and even sewage, fall into this category.

Vegetation makes up a notably large proportion of a blue catfish’s diet, accounting for more than half. The blue catfish target larger fish as prey when those trophy blues get older and ampler. In many areas, blue catfish are frequently seen as the highest predators where they inhabit.

Flathead Catfish

The diet of flathead catfish is one of the most restricted of any catfish species. They only consume insects and crabs on some special occasions. Young flatheads have remarkably more variation than adults, including small fish; some of them can be named minnows, bluegills, tiny perch, and similar fish. In contrast, flatheads prefer shad and bass as they grow older. They mainly eat live fish after they reach maturity.

The flathead catfish can grow to a pretty bulky size. One of the most remarkable records was nearly 5 feet long and weighed 123 pounds. According to their giant size, flatheads often target rather hefty prey.

Channel Catfish

The channel Catfish is the most adaptable of the three kinds. Fish, snails, clams, mollusks, insects, and tiny invertebrates are their favorite foods, even small mammals if they can catch them. Some people have even witnessed channel Catfish plucking birds from the water’s surface. It makes little difference to channel catfish, as they don’t care whether their food is living or dead.

Channel Catfish will eat vegetation if no meat or living tissue is present. They eat a variety of aquatic vegetation and fruit and berries that fall into the water. Channel Catfish take almost anything as their food source.

Bullhead Catfish

Bullhead Catfish are scavengers that will devour almost anything on the bottom, live or dead. They will consume smaller prey than blue catfish or channel catfish since they are smaller. A bullhead catfish’s diet includes small insects, crayfish, and small fish.

Farmed Catfish

If you’re looking to go Catfishing, prepare for a different diet. The farm-raised catfish diet is complemented with a concentrated mixture of protein diets. To be specific, it is roughly 30% protein. The Catfish farmers also let them float in warm water and sink as the temperature drops, which keeps them at the appropriate depth for the catfish to eat. 

Catfish also have their food supplemented with a wide range of additional products that depend on the farm. Catfish farm owners often boil eggs to feed their catfish. Boil eggs serve as nutritious meals for any catfish and contain pure protein. They will even eat farm-raised fish such as shad or tilapia. Of course, because they are opportunistic, they will consume almost everything else they can find.

What Catfish Eat: A Complete List

  • Algae
  • Aquatic Insects
  • Blue Crabs
  • Clams
  • Crayfish
  • Detritus
  • Frogs
  • Detritus
  • Phytoplankton
  • Shrimp
  • Sea Cucumbers
  • Seagrass
  • Snails

Do Young Catfish Eat Differently From Adult Catfish?

The diets of young and adult Catfish differ. In a study of channel Catfish conducted in Central Italy, researchers looked at the diets of the fish to see how they differed. Males and females appear to eat similarly, yet young and older Catfish diets showed some differences. The scientists found detritus, the substance that breaks down bits of dead plants and animals, and phytoplankton (microscopic single-celled plants) in the stomachs of the smaller catfish. On the contrary, openmouthed gudgeon, the little fish the size of your index finger, and red swamp crayfish were found in the stomachs of adult Catfish. This research points out that catfish can handle larger fish and crayfish as they get larger.

How Do Catfish Adapt To The Ecosystem?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the blue catfish is an invasive species. Their increasing numbers are the main reason for a food web imbalance in the Chesapeake Bay region since they consume many foods. They also upset the food chain by taking on and defeating other larger fish. Scientists have established a workgroup to address the problem and develop a plan to manage the blue catfish population in that area.


In short, catfish devour a wide variety of foods. The proper diet for catfish differs in every single type and place. That’s also why catching them is so enjoyable, as anglers may have to find the appropriate diet that is most suitable for capturing that type of catfish in a specific location. There are also many ways to attract them. Finding the best bait and approach must be a thrilling journey for all anglers.

Read more: Best Rod And Reel Combo For Catfish – Top 6 Combos Catfish Rods and Reels