can you eat saltwater catfish

Can You Eat Saltwater Catfish (Safely)?

No one can turn down a crispy, moist catfish! Most restaurants do serve freshwater catfish to your liking, but many asked, especially catfish anglers, can you eat a saltwater catfish? This question is asked by so many, especially those who fish to bring home to the table. 

So, can you eat saltwater catfish? Yes, they are entirely safe to eat. They taste different from what most people are used to, and they are a pain to clean and prepare for your table. They may have poisonous barbs, but they are not toxic to eat, which most people don’t know, which could be why they are thrown back so often.

Most people who have tried and cleaned these fish say that they taste different from freshwater catfish, but they are incredibly delicious. So, then why do they have such a negative outlook? I will give you all you need to know about saltwater catfish and get them ready for your next gathering.

Trash Fish?

A common nickname for saltwater catfish is ‘trash fish.’ These fish have a terrible reputation with anglers that they are usually thrown right back into the ocean after capture. But why have they gained such a reputation?

Don’t Change What is Known

There is no known information of when or how saltwater catfish received this reputation, but it has stuck. Most people who fish for these catfish tend to throw them back into the ocean, not even a second thought to taking them home and serving them up. It could be tedious, and though it is to clean, skin, descale them for cooking.

They are known to be slimy and messy to clean. It is not an easy task; this may be why people tend to throw them back because they don’t have the patience to serve them up. Most fish are not easy to take care of to cook, but it seems that it is a workout to get a saltwater catfish ready. 

Hard to Clean

As said before, they are not easy to clean! Saltwater catfish are scavengers; they lurk around the bottom of the ocean feeding off snails, frogs, clams, algae, etc. Saltwater catfish have high numbers in population; most people throw them back rather than take them to the table. Targeting a redfish or a black drumfish bottom feeders can be slightly annoying, and a slimy catfish catches on. Which means having to re-bait, leave your line messy, and cast off. 

They can Hurt!!

Saltwater catfish do have bards that are pointy and poisonous. They can get you if you are not careful, but it can be resolved quickly. Just get yourself some fish pliers. You can easily remove them before packing them up to take home for your table. 

Are Saltwater Catfish Poisonous?

To eat, no saltwater catfish are not poisonous. They do have poisonous barbs, but it is not to the touch. The barbs would need to be inserted into the skin. That is why you need to handle it with care. Their stings are more like bee stings or small stingrays. 

To handle a catfish sting, you want to remove all the spines to the affected area; be sure to soak the wound for thirty minutes in warm water. Suppose it bothers you a lot; you can take Tylenol or Advil for the pain. You will want to seek medical attention if you are experiencing extreme pain, swelling, and redness. A thing to keep in mind, catfish whiskers is not poisonous in any way. 

How to Clean Saltwater Catfish 

You are thinking of cooking some saltwater catfish you recently caught, and you need to know how to clean them. Well, this will be a workout you will never forget. Saltwater catfish are similar to clean freshwater catfish, but they are way slimmer. Because they are incredibly slimy, they can get away super fast. Many people have come close to slicing their fingers off, trying to cut into the fish. It is recommended to get a cutting board with a good grip and a clamp to hold these suckers down. 

The Types of Saltwater Catfish

The two types of saltwater catfish that you can most likely find in deep-sea fishing are Gafftopsail catfish and Hardhead catfish. Both can be found in the United States and Gulf of Mexico coastal waters; they are also likely to hang out in bays, mouths of rivers, estuaries, and brackish waters.  

The most common catfish that you will find in these waters is the Hardhead. They are easy to detect by their brown to greyish bodies, and if you turn them over, you will see a white, yellowish belly. Usually, they can grow to twelve inches and weigh up to twelve pounds. 

Be Careful of Their Spines! 

Especially for the Hardhead catfish, this is prominent. Their spines can easily poke and hurt you if you are not careful. Starting at the dorsal fin and finishing at each pectoral fin, you need to be sure to handle these fish with care or wear gloves. 

Catching Hardhead Catfish

Commonly, saltwater catfish are super easy to catch. There is no need to get on a boat; bridges, catwalks, and piers are where these fish can be found. They love to feast on shrimp, baitfish, artificial lures, etc. Pick a spot, cast off, and hopefully, you will find a few slimy friends to take home to your table. 

Gafftopsail Catfish and How to Catch Them

These fish are less common to find compared to the Hardhead catfish. Also known as Sailtop Catfish, they are considered a better catch for your table. You would think each fish would taste differently, but they hardly do. So, then what is the difference, and why is the Sailtop catfish better game? 

Getting the name Sailtop, from its long dorsal fin, which resembles a snail, these fish are a bluish-green color and have a silvery-white belly. They also have three super sharp spines; so, handle with care. They can grow to about sixteen inches and weigh up to ten pounds. Other than appearance, they are not much different from the Hardhead catfish. They can be found in the same waters and eat the same things. 

Conclusion: Can You Eat Saltwater Catfish?

These fish may be scavengers of the bottom of the sea, but they could be a great feast for you and your family. You want to be sure that you are handling these fish with care; they are slimy, and if they do prick you, you can be a whirlwind of hurt. But they are safe to eat and are pretty tasty too. 

Commonly found in bays, oceans, and mouths of rivers, these fishes are easy to catch since their numbers are more significant than most fish, such as Redfish or Black Drum fish, which are also bottom feeders and eat similarly to Saltwater Catfish. Be sure not to forget your fish pliers and gloves, and properly store them until you can get to your kitchen. 

There are plenty of recipes for saltwater catfish, and you have to look. They may have a bad reputation, but many people serve up saltwater catfish. I hope you all get to have these fish on your table soon; happy catching and eating!