Traditional Foods


There are many kinds of catfish found across Indian Country. You can catch catfish in most rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Many Tribes caught and ate catfish and still do today. The type of catfish and traditional stories about catfish are specific to the Tribe or region. Catfish is rich in protein, nutrients and healthy fats when baked or roasted. Native people harvested catfish in different ways. Noodling, grabbling or a spear, were often used to harvest catfish.

Traditionally, catfish would be strung on a stick and roasted over a fire or put into soups. Often, fish soup and corn mush were fed to sick people because the meal was full of nutrients and easy to digest.


The three main types of catfish in the US are blue catfish, channel catfish and flathead catfish.

Catfish may be caught from your favorite fishing spot or bought fresh or frozen from a local store.

When catching your own fish, a healthy fish should have firm flesh with no browning, a mild fresh smell, bright clear eyes, red or pink gills and tight scales.

When buying fresh fish, the fish should be refrigerated or on ice, have a mild fresh smell, not fishy and the flesh should “spring back” when you touch it.

When buying frozen fish, make sure the package is not torn or crushed and there are no ice crystals.

“Fresh Frozen” means the fish was frozen while fresh.

“Previously Frozen” means the fish was frozen while fresh and thawed for sale.

Catfish is low in calories and high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 when made without added fat.


Fresh caught catfish should be chilled and stored in crushed ice for a fresh taste.

Catfish, both fresh caught and fish you buy, should be stored in the fridge as soon as you get home and will keep for up to 3 days.

Catfish may also be stored in the freezer to extend shelf life. After thawing frozen fish, do not refreeze.


All fish should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit to kill harmful bacteria and parasites.

Catfish is best when baked, grilled or broiled with the skin removed and fat trimmed.

Adapted from Park, S., Hongu, N., & Daily, J. W. (2016). Native American foods: History, culture, and influence on modern diets. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 3(3), 171-177. doi: 10.1016/j.jef.2016.08.001 and

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