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Can you eat saltwater catfish

Catfish are a peculiar type of fish with whiskers protruding from the mouth area and have external spines close to their fins. They usually inhabit muddy rivers, subtropical and tropical beaches, lakes and temperature waters. There are two different types of catfish, those living in freshwater and those living in saltwater.

There is little goodness to talk about this saltwater catfish, however they are available in plenty. As such, it won’t take you time to catch them and prepare your meal. Additionally, they are scavengers, meaning they eat anything that comes their way whether alive or dead so you don’t have to struggle looking for bait.

On the other hand, saltwater catfish are the most detested fish that most anglers perceive as trash fish for their bait stealing tendency and a fining dorsal. As such, many people raise a number of questions regarding their edibility. They are considered a waste of time and hectic to clean and prepare. However, there are some good stories of the saltwater catfish from people who have taken the pain of preparing them and they claim to have enjoyed the meal.​

Different Species of catfish​

There are several fish species that make up the saltwater catfish category. The Hardhead catfish and the Gafftop catfish are the most common ones. They are both edible but most fishermen if not all detest them for getting slime over everything and stealing bait.

Gafftop Catfish and the Hardhead Catfish

The gafftop catfish are characterized with a rising dorsal fin from their back that resembles a snail. There are sharp spines supporting the dorsal, fin, and the pectoral fins on the sides of the fish. The spines also have a toxic slime coating. On the other hand,The hardhead catfish comes with six rounded barbels sticking out of their chins. The barbels are essential in helping the catfish find shrimp, fish and ramps in their muddy bays.


  • Easy to catch, no special equipment needed.


  • They are bait thieves thus making it difficult to catch other fish species as they come in large numbers.
  • They are dangerous given that it has spines and a stinging apparatus with a protective poison that can cause a painful wound which might eventually lead to an infection
  • They are not tasty.
  • They take longer time to get off the hook with their continuous wiggling hence wasting time that could have been utilized in going after the most preferred fish
  • They are bottom feeders with a tendency of eating anything that comes their way thus having a poor diet.
  • They have a thick slime that will end up covering your leader and lure while fishing for a larger fish.

Freshwater Catfish vs Saltwater Catfish

Freshwater catfish are good for eating unlike their cousins the saltwater catfish that are not that much tasty. They are bottom feeders just like the saltwater catfish. The whiskers on the freshwater catfish cannot hurt you, however in the saltwater catfish the small dorsal fins are sharp and can penetrate even a tennis shoe and cause harm.

How to catch Saltwater Catfish.

Saltwater catfish are smaller compared to freshwater fish rarely weighing more than three pounds. They are more active at night and they inhabit shallow waters. The catfish mostly depend on smell to help them reach the food source. As such, using bloody and strong smelling oily baits such as small bluefish, mullet and mackerel attached to your hook will work well towards provoking them to eat the bait. Ensure that you cast the line to the bottom of the ocean and use a dead bait for them to find the bait easily since they are blind. It is important to note that you do not need any special equipment to catch this type of fish, any rod and reel combo should get the job done.

It is also necessary to use a sharp hook, more especially mid-sized circle hooks. The hook should be sharp enough to piece the mouth of the catfish easily. Embed a smaller sinker on your line for easy monitoring of activity. But in high tides use a heavier pyramid storm sinker and give your line time until you observe some activity from the sinker. When the sinker is completely submerged in water, you can now reel the line out of the water. Unhook the catfish with care probably using pliers and wear gloves to avoid coming into contact with the poisonous spikes.


The debate on whether to eat or not to eat saltwater catfish is an open case for discussion. However, considering the pain that one has to undergo to catch the fish and the risks involved, it is not worth the pain. Saltwater catfish have poisonous spikes, a poor diet and preparing them is a tedious exercise. As such, it will be safe to say that eating such fish is of little importance​

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