A catfish sting resulted in a young boy getting airlifted to the hospital on June 20. The boy was barbed by a catfish near a pond in New Port Richey, located on Florida’s west coast north of Tampa. A toxic catfish spine entered about one inch into the youngster’s chest and lodged, causing him shortness of breath, according to WFLA-TV 8, an NBC affiliate in Tampa.
Authorities responded to the incident and listed the child as a trauma alert, according to the Pasco County Fire Rescue department.
The child was then flown to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa for care. While in flight to the hospital, the boy “experienced difficulty breathing,” officials said.
USA Today reported that the child is now in stable condition.
Beware of Catfish Barbs
Many catfish species have a mild toxin at the tips of their large spines located at the front of the dorsal fin and at the ends of the pectoral fins, behind the gills. Some species have more venomous toxins than others, and near-shore marine species of catfish like gafftopsail catfish have especially nasty stings.
However, even freshwater catfish can deliver painful stings if an angler is careless when unhooking a fish, or if a wader steps on a submerged fish.
Catfish spines are pointed like needles at their tips, yet they are very tough. They can penetrate walking shoes if stepped on or if a catfish is kicked, which regularly occurs on fishing piers during summer months.
A catfish spine sting to the chest is rare, but not unheard of. Many anglers instinctively grab a just-caught wiggling fish, then press it to their chest for a better grip for unhooking. It’s possible that this occurred in the case of the Florida boy.
People can have wide variet of reactions from catfish stings, which are usually mild—most people see a reaction similar to a bee sting. However, a deep sting to the chest could trigger anaphylactic shock to a person who is acutely susceptible to such poisons, particularly a youngster.
Wear gloves when unhooking in-shore catfish and always mind the barbs.