Re: NANFA-- Freckled Madtom Eating Behavior

Todd Crail (
Wed, 24 Mar 2004 09:16:42 -0500

They see in other ways.... ;)

I'd say catfish are North America's premier active predator after having
watched them in the aquarium, watched how they feed, and then changed my
angling approach off the bottom and up into the water column where they
don't have to hunt for it as long (using floating jigheads as terminal
tackle has greatly increased my catch rates). I've seen no difference in
channel cats to madtoms that I've kept. Channel cats will roam more in the
daylight than madtoms, but the way the family feeds is pretty much the same.
And no catfish is going to pass up a free meal.

The eyes seem to be used, but only as a final sense instead of a primary one
like us, before opening their mouth. They've used their lateral lines and
olfactory organs (they're like one giant nose) to draw a picture of their
prey, long before they get close enough to bother with something silly, like
eye sight ;)

If they're in an active feeding mode, those bloodworms would be gone
immediately. It was always waaaay more fun to feed Spicoli, the stoncat in
the dark when he was active, than in the day, when I was active :)

What you have to understand is the bloodworms are not immitting any kind of
electrical "picture" because they're like, um, dead (well I'm assuming they
were frozen bloodworms). So they're not "seeing" it until a chemical
gradient is strong enough to say "that's food".

In-Fisherman has done a lot of articles on how the family senses it's
food... I guess that's where other applications of "native fish" does come
in handy. Maybe I can dig one of those articles up, if it's online. I
resolved to quit being a pack rat a few years ago, and now I'm really sad
that I did, cause for once... I would have used it! :)

I remember it saying something along the lines of "They have the most
developed sense of smell, electrical sense, motion detection of any other
freshwater fishes in North America [note: sharks were their comparison
animal]. Eyesight has been in question, but that doesn't even seem to be
too poor a sense for them either." or something like that.

Good observation :)

----- Original Message -----
From: "John B" <>
To: "Nanfa" <>
Sent: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 10:40 PM
Subject: NANFA-- Freckled Madtom Eating Behavior

> I have noticed a behavior in my Freckled Madtoms that is probably more
> widespread amoung Ictalurids. They don't seem to see the food that is
> placed out for them. Bright red bloodworms are passed right by unless
> their wiskers brush them. Then in a flash the worm is gone. I guess
> the scent of the worm brings the catfish out but they don't seem to see
> the food. Am I correct in my interpretation of this behavior? Is their
> "sight" used to detect predators only or given their nocturnal
> tendancies, is the use of sight not used much at all?
/"Unless stated otherwise, comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of the North American Native Fishes
/ Association"
/ This is the discussion list of the North American Native Fishes Association
/ To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get help, send the word
/ subscribe, unsubscribe, or help in the body (not subject) of an email to
/ For a digest version, send the command to
/ instead.
/ For more information about NANFA, visit our web page,