When fishermen in West Virginia found themselves in the front row for a catfish-versus-catfish battle recently, the resulting footage was dubbed a "cannibal" clash by several media outlets. But what we're seeing, more precisely, is a showdown between two different catfish species.

The clip, which has been shared thousands of times online, was filmed in West Virginia's Indian Lake, which is home to a number of large fishes. The aggressor in this case is a flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris), also known as a "mud cat". Some have suggested that its unfortunate opponent is a blue catfish, but according to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, it's more likely a channel catfish (Ictalurus punctuates).*

Mud cats, and all catfish for that matter, are known to feed on a variety of large prey, and they'll occasionally run into trouble in the process. Their appetite for supersized chow-downs is also problematic for aquarists who house them with other fishes:
It's unclear whether this recent battle was a genuine predation attempt or a skirmish over territory, but the flathead could very well have finished the job. "They are the largest game fish in the state of West Virginia, with individuals reaching over 50lbs (22kg)," explains the DNR.

These whiskered brutes start life off as scavengers, but once they've reached about 24 inches (60cm) in length, they become active predators. The ambush hunters opt for sneaky tactics, often waiting in logs and along the muddy substrate for the right moment to snatch a meal. And they don't just eat fish: a healthy flathead can easily stomach mussels, crayfish and other crustaceans. 

* Note that this identification has been debated and the consensus on social media seems to be that this is actually a blue catfish.
Top header image: Brian Gratwicke, Wikimedia Commons