The Piraiba Catfish is a hunter and will go after live animals. In fact there are reports the world over of catfish attacking people.

Largest Catfish in the World

The Piraiba Catfish (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum) is found in South America in the Amazon, Orinoco and the Guyanas watershed. Their distribution ends at the edge of the Andes.


Unlike trout, salmon and Charr, the Piraiba doesn’t like clear and cold water. Instead it prefers muddy rivers that have a soft muddy bottom. Some claim that the Piraiba prefers the point at which 2 rivers or tributaries come together. Turbulent waters or back currents with deep water holes.


The Piraiba Catfish is also know by the name Goliath Catfish.


The Piraiba is the largest Catfish in the world and is a member of the Brachyplatystoma family of large catfish. There’s much disagreement on how big they grow. The largest world record IGFA Piraiba Catfish caught weighed 341 lb / 155 kg and was caught by Jorge Masullo de Aguiar on the Rio Solimosin in Brazil.


Others claim that this fish can reach 550 lbs and as long as 12 feet. Some claim 600 pounds and only 10 feet, (3 metres in length) We will only report confirmed records. As the Piraiba is a very popular food source, finding large ones is becoming more difficult and is often found in more remote areas of the Amazon watershed.

Piraiba Catfish Food Preferences

The food preference of the Piraiba Catfish is that of legends. Larger Piraiba Catfish consume monkeys, birds, cats, dogs other catfish and even people.


This is where this article takes a unique turn. We have called this fish a river monster because it’s long been feared as feeding on people. Local fisherman claim that people go missing all the time in waters where the Piraiba Catfish are found. Until recently, there was little proof and more conjecture.

Piraiba Swallows Full-Grown Man

In the 1990s, 3 men were fishing in the Amazon when the net got caught in a rock. Despite the many dangerous creatures found in the river, one of the men went down to free the net. The net was freed a few moments later, but was empty of fish but there was no sign of the fisherman that went down to free the net.


After a few hours passed, a huge Piraiba Catfish came to the surface and was thrashing about with only the fisherman’s legs sticking out. This Catfish had swallowed a fully grown man up to his legs.


The 2 fisherman were able to get the catfish into the boat and killed it by clubbing it to death. They then took the Piraiba Catfish to the police station with the man still inside it for fear that the police would not believe the tall tale of the catfish having swallowed the man.


The Piraiba Catfish was 8 feet long, 350 pounds/158 kilograms, had a mouth 40cm across but could open to 2 feet across due to its dual hinged mouth. The facts of this story were confirmed in a recent airing on the TV show River Monsters. Jeremy Wade interviewed the police and the fisherman that witnessed the event.

Separating the Fact from Myth

Catfish are thought to be bottom feeders or garbage collectors of the deep but this isn’t true. The Piraiba Catfish is a hunter and will go after live animals. In fact, there are reports of catfish attacking people, though many of these incidents are as a result of people swimming too close to their nest.


While 500 lbs/227kg catfish may be rare, that doesn’t mean people are only at risk in the Amazon. It only takes about 30 lbs of force to pull a person under water, which is something very easy for a 90 pound catfish to accomplish. That coupled with panic, it could only take 20 seconds for most people to drown.


While the risk of getting swallowed by the Piraiba may be rare, being killed by one or other Brachyplatystoma species is more likely from being pulled down. However, the Amazon is filled with numerous creatures that can easily kill a person.


Swimming in the Amazon should be done with caution and some research.

Food Source and Table Fare

Thousands of metric tons of the Piraiba Catfish are consumed each year with demand growing as the population increases. Commercial fishing for the Piraiba Catfish is done using longlines, drift nets and by harpoon occasionally. Their flesh is considered excellent quality, which is not surprising as catfish are usually good tasting wherever they are caught.

Fishing for Paraiba

The word here is exercise extreme caution. These are strong, fast fish capable of leaping out of the water. Paraiba are opportunistic feeders and like a combination of depth and water turbulance or current.


Tip: If you start fishing a deep hole and are catching other catfish, you’re not likely to find Paraiba present.



Note that the Paraiba catfish’s strike can be subtle. Allow your line to be taken by the fish until you feel it’s swallowed the bait and moving away. Then point the tip of the rod up, engage your reel and let the rod point be pulled downwards. The Paraiba will pull away from the pressure and hook itself. The circle hook is designed so it sets in the side of the mouth.


Further info: A 295lb piraiba was caught by  Russell Jensen in 2007. Jensen battled the fish for 90 minutes before finally landing it. He was using a Daiwa rod and Penn reel spooled with 80 lb test Power Pro braided line.