By far the most recognizable features on a catfish are undoubtedly, the "whiskers", or more correctly known as the barbels. Although they are called Catfish, do not relate a cat's keen since of sight with this fish. Since they are considered a nocturnal animal, they feed and are most active at night. Because of this, they must rely on senses other than sight. Taste and smell are whate these fish rely on most and these "whiskers" play a big role in this. The barbels are essentially enlarged olfactory organs.
    The barbels on all species of Catfish have always taken the wrap for the part of the fish that does the stinging. But in reality, the barbels do no harm at all. It is actually a defensive adaptation called fin spines. These fins are normally relaxed and lie against the body of the fish, out of site from both prey and predators. But the Catfish can tense of its muscles and straighten out these spines if the fish feels threatened. This trait is known as having a "locking fin spine". These spines have been known to inflict some pretty severe puncture wounds on not only other animals, but also humans (Lundberg & Friel 2003).

  picture of blue catfish   Courtesy:  Wikipedia 2013