Silver Catfish or Butter Barbel; Chilbe intermedius
Butter barbel…the name says it all! This little mid water predator with a maximum weight of about 1.5kg loves slow flowing or static water. They live in shoals and hunt small fish and small crabs at night or in low light conditions.
They are aggressive and any shiny object presented to them will be consumed almost immediately. The dorsal fin grows into a long spike and is coated with a poison that firstly numbs and then causes great pain if it breaks the skin. These fish can live up to 6 years.
As the alternative name (butter barbel) suggests, the silver catfish is a great eating fish despite its size. The bones are big and the flesh soft, finely textured and very good to eat. Grilling over an open fire or smoking the fish and serving it with capers and raw pickled peppercorns is a taste to behold. Gently filleting the fish and preserving it in vinegar ala roll mop style is another clear personal favourite.
As this is one of our indigenous fish, most of them will be released after a short fight. They do spawn multiple times a year, so a certain amount of consumptive use may be possible.
Here's an image of one of our Field Guides, Dumisani Nleya, pulling out his catch of Silver Catfish from the great Mokolo River that runs through our beautiful reserve.
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