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EATING SALTWATER CATFISH

snookcatcher1snookcatcher1 Posts: 256 Deckhand
I met an OLD TIMER Florida Cracker a year ago while Kayak fishing in a back bay salt creek (S.W. FL.) He was born and raised in Florida. Probably 70 years old; an Old Florida guy. It was an honor to meet him. Standing on his property he invited me up out of the water, he told stories and gave me an education on fishing. Before I left he generously gave me 2 fillets of freshly caught mullet and 2 salt catfish fillets. (He had cast netted both that morning.) I think he saw me look funny when he gave me the catfish fillets. I told him I had heard all my life that salt catfish wasn't a good eating fish. He graciously corrected me and told me that these fillets would be as good as Snook. (This was not a Gaftop, but what I would call a generic common catfish that all of us have caught.) The funny thing is that he was right. I went home, baked the fresh mullet (it was very good) and fried the catfish. The catfish was surprisingly good. It probably was not as good as Snook, but was solidly good tasting table fare. Something that I would happily feed my family. Definitely tasted better than fresh water catfish. That day I was convinced that common salt catfish are not trash fish or a poor persons food.

Anyone have a similar experience? Has anyone actually eaten this ugly looking fish? What did you think?
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Replies

  • FlashFlash Posts: 11,685 AG
    Well Sailcat and Gafftop are the same in my book and are fine to eat. Be leery of their fins and if you do get finned, make sure you rub some slime from the cat on your wound. It really helps alot. I have fried and blackened sailcats and found them quite tasty. Now I did try the Hardhead cats and did not find them near as tasty.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

    Never seem more learned than the people you are with. Wear your learning like a pocket watch and keep it hidden. Do not pull it out to count the hours, but give the time when you are asked. --- Lord Chesterfield
  • doubletrebledoubletreble Posts: 22 Greenhorn
    The gaftopsails are very tasty. For their size, they do not have a whole lot of meat on them, and can be difficult to fillet because the slime is quite messy. But if you catch a 3 or 4 lb gaftopsail they are excellent table fare. They taste just like the freshwater cat you get in a restaurant except actually fresh because you caught it.
  • Lobstercatcher229Lobstercatcher229 Posts: 4,845 Captain
    I have eaten sailcats. Like the above poster said, they sure are slimy! I prefer Mahi Mahi. I have heard that regular salt water cats taste pretty bad but I have never tried them.
  • bonephishbonephish Posts: 1,488 Officer
    Hardhead salt cats are disgusting. :puke
  • mako221mako221 Posts: 87 Deckhand
    Ive tried both Sailcats and Hardheads both are good, sailcats a little better, both seem better to me than freshwater catfish. The hardheads have not much meat mostly head there are a lot of worse fish out there to eat.
  • temmortemmor Posts: 74 Deckhand
    Years ago I tried a saltwater catfish and it was an UGLY experience.

    It has been long enough that I cannot remember what kind of catfish it was,
  • nuclearfishnnuclearfishn Posts: 8,355 Admiral
    They all taste like chicken.
  • Mango ManMango Man Posts: 12,315 AG
    The old timers (that have passed many years ago) always loved the Sailcats, gafftops, not so much. This was back when they referred to snook as soap fish. :wink


    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    Abraham Lincoln
  • 001001 Posts: 4,292 Captain
    Some of y'all need to just go ahead and run a trot line in the Indian River.
  • GreenfeanGreenfean Posts: 77 Deckhand
    I think people have a stigma about how fish taste on how easy it is to catch
    Tarpon 120
  • backwatersrulebackwatersrule Posts: 12 Greenhorn
    Both cats are edible and taste good. The hardhead is mostly head so you get a small filet that makes it not worth the trouble to clean. Sailcats, Gaftops or Gafftopsail are the same fish and are pretty good if you can get past the slime. You can also get a much larger filet off of them than you can a hardhead.

    DO NOT rub slime on a catfish wound as this can set you up with a pretty nasty infection. Hot water is the safe way to go.
  • Go0ganGo0gan StuartPosts: 169 Deckhand
    My buddy swears by them. I never tried yet. Any tips on dealing with slime??
  • DrKDrK Posts: 255 Deckhand
    If you want to clean catfish rub a generous amount of kosher salt on the skin just before you clean them.  This will absorb the slime and make them easier to handle.
  • FishInFLFishInFL Posts: 2,222 Captain
    He is trying to poison you...
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 16,072 AG
    Ate a sail cat last year we caught in marathon.  honestly couldn't tell the difference between it and the trout/mangos we were catching.   
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • Bottom KnockerBottom Knocker PUNTA GORDAPosts: 28 Greenhorn
    slightly off topic but I have caught sail cats on bait busters and zara spooks!
  • kellerclkellercl Posts: 10,259 AG
    I've tried topsail cats.  They are ok.  I personally don't see the point when trout, reds, snook and many others are readily available and taste better.  
    #Lead beakerhead specialist 

    "Soul of the mind, key to life's ether. Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel. Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended."
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 16,072 AG
    kellercl said:
    I've tried topsail cats.  They are ok.  I personally don't see the point when trout, reds, snook and many others are readily available and taste better.  
    For us it was just another fish in the box that didn't count against any limits.  
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • kellerclkellercl Posts: 10,259 AG
    edited July 2018 #20
    kellercl said:
    I've tried topsail cats.  They are ok.  I personally don't see the point when trout, reds, snook and many others are readily available and taste better.  
    For us it was just another fish in the box that didn't count against any limits.  
    Which is fair.  I keep cats on days when I'm not catching anything else.  Their table fare is palatable.  Nothing wrong with them.  As a plan "B" cats are a good option.  
    #Lead beakerhead specialist 

    "Soul of the mind, key to life's ether. Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel. Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended."
  • relicshunterrelicshunter Posts: 605 Officer
    Sail cats are good, but not as much meat as you would think for the size. We've eaten Hardhead cats a lot of the years and they are ok, not great but breaded and fried ok. Seems like in the hot months they would have a bleachy like taste. I started thinking it was the water around Cedar key but I've had it from other places. Haven't eaten one in a few years because it's not worth the time to clean and have another bad one. Either they are different in the summer or they all have changed taste. 
  • kellerclkellercl Posts: 10,259 AG
    Sail cats are good, but not as much meat as you would think for the size. We've eaten Hardhead cats a lot of the years and they are ok, not great but breaded and fried ok. Seems like in the hot months they would have a bleachy like taste. I started thinking it was the water around Cedar key but I've had it from other places. Haven't eaten one in a few years because it's not worth the time to clean and have another bad one. Either they are different in the summer or they all have changed taste. 
    That was my experience as well.  Cats do not fillet well.  
    #Lead beakerhead specialist 

    "Soul of the mind, key to life's ether. Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel. Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended."
  • tankardtankard Posts: 7,030 Admiral
    Mango Man said:
    The old timers (that have passed many years ago) always loved the Sailcats, gafftops, not so much. This was back when they referred to snook as soap fish. :wink


    Sailcats and gafftops are the same thing. Hardheads are different. I've eaten sailcat twice, once was ok the other time it was nasty. Never tried hardhead.

    That said, I love bonito!

  • kellerclkellercl Posts: 10,259 AG
    Does anybody else find snook grossly overrated?  Don't get me wrong, it is good, but far from the best inshore fish.  
    #Lead beakerhead specialist 

    "Soul of the mind, key to life's ether. Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel. Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended."
  • CyclistCyclist Posts: 23,340 AG
    edited July 2018 #25
    My sailcat attempt was a horrible urine smelling mess. And I will eat most anything...I musta done something wrong.
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 16,072 AG
    kellercl said:
    Sail cats are good, but not as much meat as you would think for the size. We've eaten Hardhead cats a lot of the years and they are ok, not great but breaded and fried ok. Seems like in the hot months they would have a bleachy like taste. I started thinking it was the water around Cedar key but I've had it from other places. Haven't eaten one in a few years because it's not worth the time to clean and have another bad one. Either they are different in the summer or they all have changed taste. 
    That was my experience as well.  Cats do not fillet well.  
    Just ran the knife along the rib cage, i had it flat on the table, not on it's side. 
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • Kokosing LoverKokosing Lover Posts: 1,088 Officer
    slightly off topic but I have caught sail cats on bait busters and zara spooks!
    Hardheads are foragers that mostly eat small invertebrates from the sediment.  Sailcats, however, are very active predators that naturally prey on a lot of different fish and will readily hit artificial lures and large live baits.  I remember one time when I was catching ladyfish on my flyrod up in old tampa bay and every time I brought a ladyfish to the kayak, a half dozen large sailcats would come up simultaneously and grab the ladyfish while I was trying to land it.  Pretty wild.  I've also had them eat live ladyfish while I was fishing for blacktips.
  • tankardtankard Posts: 7,030 Admiral

    ^^^^^ True.

    Nothing is more disappointing than catching a sailcat on artificial. Part of the reason to throw them is to avoid catfish, stingrays, etc. But noooooo a freaking sailcat will eat your lure. And slime it up. Jerks.

  • kellerclkellercl Posts: 10,259 AG
    I've had cats hit twitch baits and popping corks.  I can't complain because it is rare compared to using bait.
    #Lead beakerhead specialist 

    "Soul of the mind, key to life's ether. Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel. Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended. So the world might be mended."
  • tankardtankard Posts: 7,030 Admiral

    Yes, and because it is pretty rare it is doubly maddening.

    Usually when one gets a good hit and fight on a lure, one expects a quality fish. Such a letdown to see the stupid catfish.

  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 4,456 Captain
    On my skiff we have a “two catfish” rule... If we catch two catfish.... it’s time to move.
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
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