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May 7, 2012 09:14 AM


Catfish used to be the most common choice in the fish departments here in the Bay Area. And they were one of the cheapest.

I recently noticed I never see them anymore. What happened? Did tastes and cooking styles change? Did their farms get wiped out by the hurricanes of recent years?

I like catfish and grew up with them (used to catch 'em in our local waters). Plus, they are vegetarian and don't produce the pollution problems you get with farmed salmon.

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  1. I see catfish filets sporadically at Costco and Safeway. In the Bay Area, any Asian market that have live fish tanks will almost always have live catfish. The fishmonger will clean and cut up your fish upon request. At Ranch 99, they will also deep fry the fish at no charge.

    1. Like FoodTrippin, I see catfish filets at Costco. And FYI, cats are not vegetarian. They'll eat just about anything they can get into their ugly mouths. They've been known to eat ducklings, for instance.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ricepad

        Uh - that only goes for wild-caught catfish. 99% of the catfish sold in the U.S. are farmed, & fed a high-protein pelleted diet - which doesn't include ducklings.

        1. re: Bacardi1

          What, you wanted to say something but had to stretch to say THIS?? And what makes you think those pellets are entirely plant-based? Catfish WILL eat anything they can get into their mouths. In concrete lined ponds, that may mean only pellets, but that's not all they're willing to eat, given the chance. While nearly all the catfish SOLD in the US is farmed, there's a lot of catfish CONSUMED that wasn't farmed.

          1. re: ricepad

            My relatives that lived in Illinois always wanted us to have a catfish dinner when we were there. the fish was always muddy as hell and gross, there being (I'm convinced) no god coks in that town. I really like farmed catfish, since I've never had one that tasted like I just dragged my mandible through a river bottom. Farmed catfish is lovely, I just hope that the farmers don't pollute the hell out of the environment like they've done with the freshwater shrimp.

            1. re: EWSflash

              Re wild catfish -- mom would clean and skin them, and then soak them overnight in salty water. That took care of any muddy flavor problem.

              1. re: EWSflash

                EWSflash: Not knowing where in Illinois your relatives lived, I can't say for sure, but remembering the relatively few catfish I ate there (ours was mostly bass and bluegill) I think they probably LIKED it "muddy", because that's what they were used to. I do recall a distinct undertone of ditch water at a few fish-fries. A couple of my favorite catfish restaurants in Tennessee (very much later) were right on a river, but the fish were all farmed

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Will- it was Robinson.We went somewhere that uncle Walt like to get catfish and it was muddy and greasy- the two things I can't handle regarding seafod. They didn't eat catfish themsel;ves, but thought they would show us the Way it Was in IL, but I think the river they got it from was the Wabash, it being close to Robinson. I have had farmed catfish since that was absolutely great, no hard-core muddiness. Do some folks really like it muddy?

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    Robinson would certainly indicate Wabash, which would hardly be my river of choice for food fish! On the other hand, when we moved down to Evansville, the little adjacent town of Newburg, next to an Ohio river dam and locks, had at least three restaurants specializing in the river cats called "fiddlers". We never tried any …

                    Our home town was Marshall, maybe 30 miles north of Robinson; most of the river cats caught and eaten there I think were from Big Creek, a spring-fed tributary of the Wabash. I suspect our fish were a good deal less rank.

        2. Plentiful here....Prices up somewhat do to fuel/feed cost....

          1 Reply
          1. re: Uncle Bob

            Plentiful here as well, & VERY reasonably priced (I think I paid $5.99/lb a couple of weeks ago). Although I'm ALWAYS careful to make sure they're U.S. farmed catfish & not from overseas.

          2. Ate lots of catfish when lived in the south in the late 80s and early 90s. Farm raised and cheap often under $5 per pound. Catfish is white meat great to cook many ways. I enjoy blackened with tartar sauce. Used to see catfish more in Oregon often for a decent price, but have not seen as much around recently. The OP has a great question, "What happened?" Something seems to have changed.

            1. It is my understanding that Katrina did disrupt the production and distribution of catfish. Has not been a problem to get them here in the southeast for the past year or two. Maybe the west coast was not a primary market or maybe they aren't selling out there anymore.

              Never was a "trend" here. Been going to the local "fish camp" for better than 40 years now. All you have to do to order at my favorite place is to say "fish please".

              1 Reply
              1. re: kengk

                Did some research tonight and there is lots going on in catfish in recent years. Found more about catfish than expected going on in the news. US catfish industry seams have been hit hard by Katrina, the recent 500 year flood, foreign competition, corn prices, and catfish production is down by half in the last 10 years. Catfish production is the #1 aquaculture industry in the United States and it is getting hammered by foreign competition and nature at the same time. Founders of the US industry are pulling out not making ends meet. It seems more Americans may eat foreign catfish if trends continue. When buy catfish will try to buy a local made product, where our dollars are spent can vote for local jobs.

                Found it interesting reading that as the price of corn rises, US catfish farms go bust at:

                Recent floods hit catfish hard, there is only one line on it here:

                And in the news in the last day is that Alabama catfish farmers say foreign production is damaging the industry. In the last 10 years catfish production has declined 50% it seems foreign production is winning:

                Imported catfish is not held to the same standards as that produced in the U.S.

 they may not be as good to eat. And to limit any confusion in winter of 2010 the US Catfish Industry launched a campaign against imported catfish:

                As of early 2012 Catfish is the leading aquaculture industry in the United States: