How To Kill A Catfish: Step by Step Guide On The Most Humane Way

Catfish is one unique fish and is also undeniably delicious to eat. Once you caught one, you must also know how to kill a catfish the proper way in preparation for a superb meal afterward. Unfortunately, a catfish will not die on its own upon capture and cut a fish that is still alive will just make things worst. 

With that said, there is a proper and humane way of handling your catch. This task may seem arduous at first, but if you follow the steps, you will realize how easy the process is. In this article, I will share with you the steps on how to kill a catfish the most humane way.

Moreover, I will also give you a few additional tips you can use in order for you to appreciate a delicious meal with your catch.

What You Will Need:

Before I give you the steps on how to kill a catfish, there are essential things that you will need for this task. These are the following materials you will need.

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    1. Pair of gloves - to handle catfish and for protection for any possible injuries, wear a pair of gloves when going through the process of killing a catfish.
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    2. Sharp and pointed knife - this is used to poke a hole in the catfish’s head and destroy its brain.
How To Kill A Catfish
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    ​3. Wire - this can be used as an alternate option for destroying the catfish’s brain.
  • 4. Big knife - you will use this for removing the catfish’s fins, gut, and cutting off the head.
  • 5. Fishing pliers - this is used for removing the catfish’s skin.

How To Kill A Catfish: The Step-by-step Procedure

Once you have all the vital materials for this project, you may now proceed to follow the simple guide as follows. Now, here are the steps on how to kill a catfish.

1. Destroying the brain of the catfish is the quickest way to kill it. Aside from being the quickest, it also almost painless for the catfish. The most used method of accomplishing this is by pithing and sticking a wire right through its brain.

Pithing is the customary and effective way to kill a catfish. The process of pithing is quick and easy which makes this process the most considerable way to neutralize your catch. To properly pith catfish, use a sharp and pointed knife.

Position it directly above the catfish’s brain. In one swift motion, plunge the knife down forcefully the brain cavity.

Watch this for a quick look at how it is done

Another option is using a wire to destroy the brain to kill the catfish. In doing so, poke a small hole into the top of the catfish’s head. Using a wire, quickly insert it into the hole. This will immediately render the catfish dead as painless and quick as possible.

To see how it is done, watch this short video

2. Immediately after this, create another small incision or cut on the skin around the catfish’s head. This is the spot where you cut through the head of the catfish later on.

3. Next is to remove the catfish’s fins. Fins of catfishes that are farm-raised tend to be softer and easier to remove. Make sure to do it as carefully as possible since the fins of a catfish are pointy and sharp and can cause injuries if removal is not done properly.

4. Since the catfish is equipped with thick skin, fishing pliers are usually the tool to use for this step. Instead of peeling off the skin all at the same time, it is best to skin the catfish in small strips. Start from the head all the way down to its tail.

5. Finally, after the skin has been removed, use a big knife and position it on small incision you made earlier on the catfish’s head to cut it off. Make another cut to the belly of the catfish down to its anal vent to remove the remaining organs.

Different Ways To Cook Catfish

How To Kill A Catfish

Once you have your catfish cleaned, you can now choose the easiest way to cook it. Here are some of the simple recipes for your fresh catch of catfish.

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    Pan Fried Catfish

One of the easiest ways to cook a catfish is pan frying it. The ingredients you will need are salt, black pepper, paprika, flour, cornmeal, Creole seasoning, unsalted butter, milk, and lemon. Mix all the ingredients together except for milk, unsalted butter, and lemon wedges.

Coat your catfish fillets with your dry mix and dip it in milk afterward. Melt your unsalted butter in the frying pan then proceed to fry your coated catfish fillet. Once done, add the lemon as a garnish to your pan-fried catfish.

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    Deep Fried Catfish

This recipe is almost similar to pan frying but with a few differences on ingredients. Season your catfish fillets with the mixture of flour, cornmeal, kosher salt, baking powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, granulated garlic, and a bottle of amber beer.

Fry your catfish fillets for three to four minutes and then serve.

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    Grilled Catfish
How To Kill A Catfish

For grilling catfish, season your pieces with the mixture of lemon pepper seasoning, lemon juice, and melted butter. Be sure to coat each side with this mixture generously. Spray vegetable oil unto your grill to prevent you fillet pieces from sticking to it.

Grill your seasoned catfish fillets for six to eight minutes on each side and then serve it with grilled vegetables.

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    Baked Catfish

One of the healthier and easy ways to cook catfish is by baking it. For this, you will need butter, dry white wine, lemon juice, chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, salt, pepper, paprika. Begin by preheating your oven. Season your catfish fillet with salt and pepper.

Melt your butter and mix it with chopped garlic, dry white wine, lemon juice, and chopped cilantro. Place this mixture into a small saucepan and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Pour the mixture unto your seasoned catfish fillet followed by a dash of paprika over it.

How To Kill A Catfish

Let it bake for ten to twelve minutes and then serve it hot.


Although one of the purposes of fishing is for you to have a fresh ingredient for a delicious meal, you also have to consider if the process of handling is done in a humane way.

Now that you have learned how to kill a catfish in the most humane way possible, you can also apply this method to other fishes that you will capture in the future. 

Did you find this article helpful? Were you able to learn the steps on how to kill a catfish? Did you find the additional tips useful? Are there any other suggestions you can think of regarding this topic?

I would like to hear your thoughts about this article. Send your feedback and suggestions by leaving a comment below.

John Morris

Hi, I’m John Morris. I’m an avid outdoorsman and fisherman, blessed with an awesome wife and 2 kids. Fishing is not my passion, it is my lifestyle. I fished before I knew how to walk! I’m obsessed with all things related to fishing, even the fishy smell. I’m always willing to extend a hand to novice anglers looking for fishing tips and tricks thus I created this blog. This blog is a collection of my experiences, knowledge, and also research from other blogs.

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