There are around 2,000 species of catfish, whose name (probably due to the whiskers) first appeared in print in 1612. North America has 28 species of catfish, over a dozen of which are eaten. The most popular edible catfish are the "channel catfish," the "white catfish" and "blue catfish."
In the South, catfish are raised on fish farms (about 90 percent in Mississippi) and are sold fresh or frozen. About 60 percent are grown within a 65-mile radius of Belzoni, Mississippi, the self-proclaimed Catfish Capital Of The World.
Hush puppies are a favorite accompaniment to fried catfish, and are often served with other types of fried fish. Also known as corn dodgers, hush puppies are deep-fried little cornmeal breads. The popular legend surrounding the hush puppy takes us back to Civil War days. Southerners would sit beside a campfire, preparing their meals. If Yankee soldiers came near, they would toss their barking dogs some of the fried cakes with the command Hush, puppies.
Catfish can be used in any recipe calling for a white non-oily fish, but most Southerners prefer it dredged in cornmeal and fried, with hush puppies, coleslaw, fries and ketchup. According to Craig Claiborne, author of Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking, Deep-fried catfish without ketchup is like a hot dog without mustard.