How Long Can A Catfish Live Out of Water?

Written by in Fishing
Image Credits: Pexels.com

Some us who actively angle for catfish have been at the point either at the beginning of catfish fishing or some point along the way where we have a stringer full of catfish. Some of just catch, photograph, and release and some of us enjoy taking home the correct sized catfish to prepare for a nice fish fry.

So, how long can a catfish live out of water? 15-18 hours. Some catfish have been known to live 15-18 hours out of the water and some won’t make it even a few hours. However, in general, it is known that many catfish can make it several hours out of the water. In my experience, it’s always 1 hour or less.

Along the way, we have all had to learn the preparation and the little ins and outs about the catfish and what best practices are. I’m sure everyone reading this has stumbled upon advice to end the catfish’s life in a certain manner or do something one way or another before prepping the catfish for dinner time.

In this post I'll also answer some other related questions that I know I had early on in the process and early into my catfishing hobby. To kick things off, let’s cover a few of the basics.

» Are You Going Catfishing? Remember Bait for Catfishing - Find it at Amazon, Click Here!

Join the community
Get the latest contet, reviews and launches from Bob
Sign up for the email newsletter today

Why do Fish Die Out of Water?

Fish die out of water because they suffocate. Fish don’t have the same abilities to pull oxygen directly into their lungs. When out of the water, they can no longer use their gills to suck in water which is how fish receive oxygen. 

This is going to apply to catfish as well. Catfish will usually die within an hour or so of being out of the water.

I have seen circumstances where this can last longer depending on the circumstances.

How to Keep a Catfish Alive for Longer Periods of Time

I’ve heard of this method but haven’t used it. If the wife will allow, then go for it. Other anglers have discussed placing the catfish in the bathtub after catching to keep fresh until it’s time to prepare for cooking. If you only add salt to the water during this time, you can essentially have the fish go through a cleansing and detox phase.

This may be a viable option for you if you are attempting to keep the catfish breathing for a longer stretch of time until it’s time to prep, clean and cook the fish.

Other Options for Keeping Catfish Alive

For all the boat fishermen, you can also use your live well. Live wells do however require a little maintenance if you’re using it often. It’s important the aeration system is functioning properly inside the live well. In addition, it’s important to keep the live well clean. You can bleach the live well from time to time and allow it to sit overnight.

Adding ice to the live well can also prove helpful but it’s not 100 % necessary. The biggest thing to avoid when using ice in a live well is dropping the temperature too quickly. This can harm the fish and defeat the purpose altogether.

Some live wells will also come equipped with an oxygenator which can help keep fish alive for much longer periods of time by releasing a heavy amount of oxygen bubbles into the live well. If your boat doesn’t come equipped with this, it shouldn’t be all that expensive to add it.

» Need an oxygenator? » Are You Going Catfishing? Have a Look at the oxygenators at Amazon, Click Here!

How Else Can You Keep A Catfish Fresh For Cooking?

Use Ice. Make sure to always have a cooler ready with ice if you plan on catching catfish in the size range you plan on cooking. A nice cooler of ice will do plenty fine for keeping the fish fresh and also will make it to where the catfish can die in a humane manner without beating it with a hammer or by using some of the other methods, I’ve seen individuals do online or on YouTube.

Considerations to Keeping Catfish Fresh Until Cooking

Another method you can try to preserve catfish after catching is to gut the fish. The blood left in catfish helps speed up bacteria growth and other factors that spoil your delicious catfish nuggets. If you gut the fish quickly after catching, rinse out and place on ice, it will go a long way to ensuring you can have a better tasting catfish after cooking.

Do I Have to Put Catfish out of It's Misery to Prep It?

You do have to put catfish out of it's misery before prepping it. The old school method of a sledgehammer is not necessary and pretty inhumane. It’s much easier to let the catfish die naturally on the ice and basically suffocate due to being out of the water.

You obviously don’t clean and begin the process of cooking, preparing or fileting the catfish while it’s alive but no need exists where you physically need to do anything to ensure the fish is dead before starting the process.

You should be able to keep the fish fresh and allow it to die in a calm manner and still have perfectly good catfish ready to clean, prepare and cook.

How do You Keep Catfish Alive?

You have several options to ensuring you can keep your catfish fresh after the catch if you plan to clean it and cook it.

Altogether, catfish are going to expire fairly quickly once pulled from the water but using the live well, ice coolers and the bathtub method are all viable options to give a try if you need an extended period of time.

If You’re Not Cooking Catfish, Catch, Photograph and Release

If you don’t plan on cooking the catfish you have caught, you should plan on releasing before ever learning how long a catfish can live out of water anyways. My personal rule I like to follow is anything over 10lb, I release back. After 10lb’s or heavier is not nearly as good eating and usually worth the trouble of cleaning, preparing and cooking. The taste just gets to dull and the meat becomes tough.

Not to mention, I don’t want to ruin the fun for any future anglers. If you have no intentions of having that neighborhood fish fry, just get back them back into the water and on their way.

... What methods have you used to keep your catfish fresh for longer after the catch? Have we left anything out? Be sure to drop a comment below. As always, thanks for reading. 

I appreciate you.

Do you want to become a paid freelance writer for BonfireBob.com?
Apply now at [email protected]. Please include a sample of your writings and tell us why you are passioned about the outdoors!
Author Bio
Patrick Author BonfireBob

My name is , and I am the main Author and owner of BonfireBob.com

I live in a smaller town, very close to a bigger city and I love the Outdoors!

BonfireBob is my outlet, and my escape from the every day lives. I write about fishing, hiking, climbing, gear, camping and much more, enjoy!

My Favourite Content
Related posts
Fishing
Fishing can be a great way to introduce people of all ages to the great outdoors. With a range of styles, fishing is something that can be learned in a few minutes but takes a lifetime to master. One part of this mastery is knowing what kind of gear and a
Fishing
Fishing is one of the most sought after pastimes for all types of outdoor enthusiasts alike. There is no surprise that you might already be thinking about planning a fishing trip for yourself. The most important factor to consider before you go, though, i
Fishing
When it comes to taking any kind of fishing trip, it is true that there are several pieces of equipment involved for a successful journey. However, the most important aspect is how you store this equipment, namely your fishing rod, in order to avoid any p
Fishing
After thinking about the fishing trips that I would take with my family when I was younger, I remembered all of the frustration troubles that I had with stringing my rod the wrong way. No matter how many times I tried with different kinds of reels, I alwa
Fishing
Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes throughout the entire world. While many people enjoy this activity, most don’t know that properly casting your rod is the key to catching fish. When your baited line is properly cast, fish will be attracted to y
Fishing
Setting up for a fishing trip can be a long process, but one that can be easily executed if you have the knowledge that will make for a smoother trip. There are many variables that come with setting up for a fishing trip as a whole, but even more when it