Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador: Jakub Vagner shows off the massive head and mouth of his 8'8" Piraiba Catfish. (Photo credit: © Jakub Vagner)

Whiskered Warriors of the Amazon

Amazon catfish. Whiskered warriors. They fry drags. They bust rods. They snap 80-pound-test line like sewing thread. Some can crush a leg, sink a boat, and then maybe even eat you. They're 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, even 600 pounds of freshwater fury. And in the far reaches of Amazonia, these giant fish remain amazingly abundant. Nowhere on earth does the hardcore catfish angler have such excellent odds for catching the trophy of a lifetime.

When In-Fisherman Magazine published a list of the world's ten toughest fish in 1993, Amazon catfish ranked number one. On a scale of 1 to 10, they scored a 10 for toughness ("Pound for pound the gamest fish on the list"), a 10 for top-end size ("Maybe the biggest pure predators in freshwater'), a 10 for realistic size ("Two-hundred-pounders are probable with the right tackle"), and a 10 for accessibility ("Ranges from difficult to almost impossible").
The piraiba--known as filhote ("youngster") when less than 150 pounds. One of the world's largest freshwater fish, reaching weights approaching 700 pounds. One of the three largest species of catfish, along with the wels of Eurasia and the Mekong catfish of Southeast Asia. The IGFA world record stands at 256 pounds.
The gigantic jaú, one of the largest and least known catfishes, which sometimes exceeds six feet and 220 pounds. A 56-pounder, small fry in the Amazon, could establish a new world record.
The dorado, a favored food fish in South America, which migrates the length of the Amazon every year to spawn, and which often exceeds 100 pounds. The current world record is an 85-pounder.
The redtail catfish--known as pirarara (macaw fish) in Brazil. IGFA world record: 97 pounds, but much larger specimens have been documented. One of the most strikingly colored members of the catfish family, with orange-red fins and tail. A prized catch for all Amazon anglers.
The tiger surubim, an amazing catfish with beautiful markings. Brazilian anglers call it cachara. The 36-pound world record could be broken by an angler aboard theAmazon Voyager. Hundred-pounders have been reported.
The spotted surubim, or pintado, another heavyweight cat with striking coloration. The world record stands at 44 pounds, but there are reports of specimens topping 200

Giant cats are the primary targets, but many smaller species can be taken by catfishing enthusiasts.
The palmito ("heart of palm"), a small whiskerless catfish so named because of its firm, sweet white meat, a favorite on Brazilian dinner tables.
The bico-de-pato, a surubim catfish with an unusual duck-billed snout.
The armau, a weird fruit-eating cat (sometimes over 40 pounds) with rows of armored plates along its sides.
The barba chata ("crazy whiskers"), which has exceedingly long featherlike barbels, and reaches at least 10 pounds.

This list justs scratches the surface. One-third of the 2000 fish species in the Amazon River basin are members of the catfish family . Some cats you catch may be species unknown to science!

Fish at night, when giant cats are most likely to be caught, from the comfort of custom-built boats. Brazilian fishermen familiar with the best catfishing waters will guide you to the honeyholes where the big ones lurk. And if you like, there will be opportunities for other amazing fish species--the giant pirarucu, the world's largest freshwater fish; piranhas, the signature species on everyone's must-catch list; the traíra, a common walleye-sized fighter with a mouth full of wicked teeth; and, of course, the tucanaré, or peacock bass, which hits topwater lures with a ferocity that has to beseen to be believed.

Your adventure in Amazonia will be made all the more memorable by the magnificent sights of the world's largest rainforest. Wildlife abounds along the rivers, including hundreds of birds species such as brightly colored toucans, parrots, and macaws, and the spectacular harpy eagle, one of the world's largest birds of prey. Two species of freshwater dolphins, the tucuxi and boto, often swim alongside the fishing boats. The calls of howler monkeys boom from the jungles each day, and animals such as caimans, river turtles, iguanas, sloths and squirrel monkeys are commonly seen. With luck you might glimpse a jaguar or the endangered giant river otter. No trip you've ever made will be more memorable.

Travel The Amazon For Giant Catfish - Wild Bill's Latest Discovery
Wild Bill and an Amazon Catfish

The Amazon: The Amazon basin is one of the earth's "natural wonders." It contains the world's largest tropical rainforest and encompasses the most diverse ecosystem on the planet! The Amazon River holds 20% of the world's fresh water and 10 of its 1,100 tributaries are more than 1,000 miles long. Over 270 species of birds flock the skies and 1,850 species of fish fill the waters. Amazingly, one third of all species are in the catfish family! Yet the population of the Amazon Basin is less than one person per sq. km. To witness the Amazon is to witness nature as it was originally created!

Colossal Catfish

Tiger Catfish
The tiger catfish (Pseudoplatystoma tigrinum) is among the most beautiful catfishes, and one of the most valuable commercially. It's often caught wild but recent research has begun investigate its potential for commercial aquaculture. Leading the effort is Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP) near Iquitos, Peru, where this photo was taken.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Catfishes (order Siluriformes) are a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat'swhiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the second longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores (species that eat dead material on the bottom), and even to a tinyparasitic species commonly called the candiru, Vandellia cirrhosa. There are armour-plated types and also naked types, neither having scales. Despite their name, not all catfish have prominent barbels; members of the Siluriformes order are defined by features of the skull and swimbladder. Catfish are of considerable commercial importance; many of the larger species are farmedor fished for food. Many of the smaller species, particularly the genus Corydoras, are important in the aquarium hobby.

Catfish have one of the greatest ranges in size within a single order of bony fish. Many catfish have a maximum length of under 12 cm. Some of the smallest species of Aspredinidae and Trichomycteridae reach sexual maturity at only 1 centimetre (0.39 in).

The wels catfish, Silurus glanis, is the only native catfish species of Europe, besides the much smaller related Aristotle's catfishfound in Greece. Mythology and literature record wels catfish of astounding proportions, yet to be proven scientifically. The average size of the species is about 1.2–1.6 m (3.9–5.2 ft), and fish more than 2 metres (6.6 ft) are very rare. The largest specimens on record measure more than 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length and sometimes exceeded 100 kilograms (220 lb).

The largest Ictalurus furcatus, caught in the Missouri River on July 20, 2010, weighed 130 pounds (59 kg). The largest flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris, ever caught was in Independence, Kansas, weighing 123 lb 9 oz (56.0 kg). In July 2009, a catfish weighing 193 pounds was caught in the River Ebro, Spain, by an 11-year old British schoolgirl. However, these records pale in comparison to a giant Mekong catfish caught in northern Thailand on May 1, 2005 and reported to the press almost 2 months later that weighed 293 kilograms (650 lb). This is the largest giant Mekong catfish caught since Thai officials started keeping records in 1981. The giant Mekong catfish are not well studied since they live in developing countries and it is quite possible that they can grow even larger.

External anatomy of catfish
A flattened head allows for digging through the substrate as well as perhaps serving as a hydrofoil. Most have a mouth that can expand to a large size and contains noincisiform teeth; catfish generally feed through suction or gulping rather than biting and cutting prey.However, some families, notably Loricariidae and Astroblepidae, have asuckermouth that allows them to fasten themselves to objects in fast-moving water. Catfish also have a maxilla reduced to a support for barbels; this means that they are unable to protrude their mouths as other fish such as carp.

Most catfish are bottom feeders. In general, they are negatively buoyant, which means that they will usually sink rather than float due to a reduced gas bladder and a heavy, bony head.[3] Catfish have a variety of body shapes, though most have a cylindrical body with a flattened ventrum to allow for benthic feeding.[3]

Catfish may have up to four pairs of barbels: nasal, maxillary (on each side of mouth), and two pairs of chin barbels, although pairs of barbels may be absent, depending on the species. Because their barbels are more important in detecting food, the eyes on catfish are generally small. Like other ostariophysans, they are characterized by the presence of a Weberian apparatus.Their well-developed Weberian apparatus and reduced gas bladder allow for improved hearing as well as sound production.

Catfish have no scales; their bodies are often naked. In some species, the mucus-covered skin is used in cutaneous respiration, where the fish breathes through its skin. In some catfish, the skin is covered in bony plates called scutes; some form of body armor appears in various ways within the order. In loricarioids and in the Asian genus Sisor, the armor is primarily made up of one or more rows of free dermal plates. Similar plates are found in large specimens of Lithodoras. These plates may be supported byvertebral processes, as in scoloplacids and in Sisor, but the processes never fuse to the plates or form any external armor. By contrast, in the subfamily Doumeinae (family Amphiliidae) and in hoplomyzontines (Aspredinidae), the armor is formed solely by expanded vertebral processes that form plates. Finally, the lateral armor of doradids, Sisor, and hoplomyzontines consists of hypertrophied lateral line ossicles with dorsal and ventral lamina.[9]
Juvenile catfish, like most fish, have relatively large heads, eyes and posterior median fins in comparison to larger, more mature individuals. These juveniles can be readily placed in their families, particularly those with highly derived fin or body shapes; in some cases identification of the genus is possible. As far as known for most catfish, features that are often characteristic of species such as mouth and fin positions, fin shapes, and barbel lengths show little difference between juveniles and adults. For many species, pigmentation pattern is also similar in juveniles and adults. Thus, juvenile catfishes generally resemble and develop smoothly into their adult form without distinct juvenile specializations. Exceptions to this are the ariid catfishes, where the young retain yolk sacs late into juvenile stages, and many pimelodids, which may have elongated barbels and fin filaments or coloration patterns.

All catfish, except members of Malapteruridae (electric catfish), possess a strong, hollow, bonified leading spine-like ray on their dorsal and pectoral fins. As a defense, these spines may be locked into place so that they stick outwards, which can inflict severe wounds. In several species catfish can use these fin rays to deliver a stingingprotein if the fish is irritated. This venom is produced by glandular cells in theepidermal tissue covering the spines. In members of the family Plotosidae, and of the genus Heteropneustes, this protein is so strong it may hospitalize humans, those unfortunate enough to receive a sting; in Plotosus lineatus, the stings may result in death.

Sexual dimorphism is reported in about half of all families of catfish. The modification of the anal fin into an intromittent organ (in internal fertilizers) as well as accessory structures of the reproductive apparatus (in both internal and external fertilizers) have been(source )