Can You Eat Salt Water Catfish? How to: Cook, Clean & Prep

Kristian Ole



Saltwater catfish is known to be a feisty catch, and that is why anglers love to catch them. Their heroic fight endears this fish to fishers, but when it comes to eating saltwater catfish, it has gained a bad reputation. Anglers are less likely to eat this fish. So, does it mean that you cannot eat saltwater catfish?

On the contrary, you can eat saltwater catfish. As a matter of fact, many saltwater catfish species are edible but the two species that are most commonly consumed are hardhead catfish and gafftopsail catfish. 

Hardhead catfish are primarily caught by anglers for their bait value. People do not like to eat them as they are not very meaty. Gafftopsail catfish, on the other hand, are slimy, making them hard to clean. Nonetheless, they are regularly eaten, and you can say that they are quite popular among those who enjoy eating catfish. So, if you are wondering whether you can eat saltwater catfish, the answer is yes!

Is saltwater catfish good to eat?

First, you should understand that saltwater catfish are completely safe to consume. So, if you reel one, you can think about keeping it for your dinner table. 

Whether saltwater catfish is good to eat is a personal choice. Some people claim they are not good fish for eating, while others believe that saltwater catfish have a distinctive taste after putting up a fight. You are mistaken if you think it will have a flavor similar to saltwater catfish. Saltwater catfish is more akin to sea trout or whiting when it comes to taste, making it good enough to eat. 

While the slime and barbs can make it difficult to clean, you will enjoy eating it. Though the fish may not grace your table every day, it is still worth tasting it. 

What does the catfish taste like?

Saltwater catfish is a bottom dweller and feeder. The taste of the meat is affected by the fish’s diet. If the fish lives in mud flats and scavenges, you will find the taste deeper and fishy. On the other hand, if the catfish eats natural bait while living on sand bars and surrounding structures, the taste of the meat will be milder.

If you intend to eat saltwater catfish, you should avoid fishing in waters prone to pollution. As bottom feeders, saltwater catfish easily absorb contaminants and pollutant through the water as well as the food that it consumes every day. 

According to people who have eaten saltwater catfish, the taste of the meat is similar to other white fish, like haddock or cod. The only difference is that the meat is saltier than other white fish meats. 

Related article: Can You Eat Tarpon?

What size should keep for eating?

Saltwater catfish come in varying sizes. It is advisable to check the regulations where you intend to fish. There will be a minimum and maximum size that you can catch. In case, you want to eat your catch, it is best to go with the minimum size range. Meat from a smaller catfish will be tender and juicy. 

You will easily get fillets from a smaller fish that you can fry or make nuggets. Alternatively, you can create a flavorful sauce to go with the pan-seared fish. You can cut the bigger fillets into smaller ones so it is easy to fry or cook the fish. 

What are the preferred methods of cooking the fish?

Cooking saltwater catfish is easy. The problem comes with cleaning it. It has barbs and spikes that contain poison; hence, you need to be very careful when cleaning the fish. It is best to make a single slice starting from the head to the tail while making sure that you avoid the barbs and spikes. After you finish slicing the fish, you can peel off the skin. 

The best way to cook saltwater catfish is by creating a beer-infused batter with salt, pepper, oregano, and lemon juice. Dip the fish fillet in the batter and deep fry it. Drain the fish and eat with tartar sauce. 

Alternatively, you can season with salt and pepper and pan-sear the fillets. Serve with a lemon-mustard sauce. You can also shallow fry the fish and eat it with potato wedges. Just remember that this fish is like any other white fish meat. You can use those methods to prepare saltwater fish. 

Related article: How to eat & prepare the stingray

Why Not Give Saltwater Catfish a Try?

You will hear different people have different opinions about eating saltwater catfish. The fact is that you can eat saltwater catfish if you like. You may take a liking to the taste or dislike it. It boils down to personal preference. Just make sure that when you go fishing for saltwater catfish, you check the state of the water. If you intend to eat the fish, ensure the water is not polluted. That way, you will not have to worry about contaminants and pathogens in the meat of the fish. 

Now you know whether you can eat saltwater catfish or not. You can try catching and cooking it and then decide whether the fish is good enough to grace your dining table. 


About Kristian Ole

Kristian Ole Rørbye, a marine biologist and seasoned angler, shares his fishing adventures and expertise on FishingKris. Join him as he explores the world's waters, one cast at a time.

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