Catfish, one of the malacopterygii or soft-rayed fishes, of the family siluridae, and of the genus pimelodus of Cuvier; characterized by a smooth palate, the palatic bones often having teeth, but with no band of teeth parallel to those of the upper jaw; the head ornamented with eight fleshy barbules; skin naked. Dr. Storer describes 16 species as occurring in the fresh-water streams and lakes of North America, and there are about 50 in various parts of the world. - The common catfish, or horned pout (P. atrarius, De Kay), is one of the most common fishes of our rivers, and is by many preferred as an article of food to all other fluviatile species except the pickerel; specimens are occasionally met with weighing three quarters of a pound. Length 7 to 9 in.; color dusky, almost black on the head and back, lighter on the sides, and white beneath, in front of the ventral fins, which are behind the pectorals. Upper jaw the longer; tail nearly even and rounded; head smooth and flattened; skin naked and covered with a mucous secretion. It has two fleshy barbules on the top of the head between the snout and eye; at the angle of the upper jaw are two thick fleshy barbules, reaching to the middle of the pectoral fins, and there are four others under the lower jaw. The mouth is capacious.
There are two blunt spines midway between the eye and the opening of the gills; the first ray of the first dorsal fin is strongly spinous; the second dorsal is fatty; the pectoral fins have also a serrated spine; these spines become fixed and immovable at the will of the animal, and serve as formidable defensive weapons. Varieties sometimes occur in this genus without ventral fins, and such have been described as a new genus, pimapterw. This species is the most common one in the New England and middle states, and is found in the great lakes and along the Atlantic states from Maine to Florida. It prefers muddy bottoms, as do all the species of the genus. - The great lake catfish (pimelodus nigricans, Lesueur) is from 2 to 4 ft. long, weighing from 6 to 30 lbs.; it is found in Lakes Erie and Ontario. This is of a deep olive brown color, and has the tail forked. Other species are the Huron catfish (P. ccenosus, Rich.), 10 in. long, found in Lake Huron; northern catfish (P. uorealis, Rich.), 30 in. long, found in the northern regions; the white catfish (P. albidus, Lesueur), of a whitish ash color, 12 to 15 in. long, from Delaware; the mudfish (P. punctulatus, Cuv.), 2 to 3 ft. long, of a brown color spotted with black, from Louisiana. Among the large species found in the Ohio river and its tributaries are the P. ceneus (Les.), 2 to 3 ft. long; P. furcatus (Les.), 1 to 4 ft. long; P. cuprens (Raf.), 1 to 4 ft. long; P. limosus, P. ccerulescens, and P. xanihocephalus. - The catfish are sluggish in their movements, securing their prey rather by stratagem than by swiftness.
The female moves about with her young, like a hen with her brood. Though their flesh is generally esteemed in the country and on the western rivers, it is very insipid to persons accustomed to salt-water lishes. - Catfish is a name applied to other species of different genera, and among others to the ferocious anarrhicas lupus (Linn.), more properly called wolf-fish.
Horned Pout (Pimelodus atrarius).