Can You Eat Saltwater Catfish? Are They Poisonous?

Across the globe, saltwater catfish has earned a pretty bad reputation because of the sharp spines on its back which have been discovered to be venomous. Most catfish anglers refer to them as trash fish’ because of their poisonous nuisance. So, can you eat saltwater catfish? Are they poisonous? These are frequent questions asked by so many fishing hobbyists.

Interestingly, catfish are a good catch for great eats. There are two types of catfish; we have freshwater catfish and saltwater catfish. Undoubtedly, freshwater catfish are lovely and very delicious; so also are their salty counterparts.


Saltwater catfish are perfectly edible which means they are good to eat without any fear of being poisoned. Although they have poisonous spines, they are safe to eat. This may leave many of us wondering. Read on and let’s explore the world of saltwater catfish together.

• Saltwater catfish is edible and perfectly safe to eat but the rocky spine is inedible.
• There are two common types of saltwater catfish; hardhead catfish and sail catfish.
• The best method for cooking saltwater catfish is the deep frying method.
• Saltwater catfish taste good if it is gotten from a good source.

Is Saltwater Catfish Edible Or Poisonous?

Saltwater catfish are perfectly safe to eat. They taste delicious just like the freshwater catfish. This species of fish is very edible and delightful. Generally, for food, saltwater catfish are not poisonous. It tastes good when properly cooked, but this practically boils down to taste preference.

One interesting fact about saltwater catfish is that it is edible to eat and poisonous in some instances. This catfish is poisonous because of Its sharp barb or spines. The sharp spine is extremely poisonous because it secretes venom. This poisonous barb is specifically designed for self-defense. Simply, if the saltwater catfish is attacked in water, it will use the barb on its back to sting the attacker.

Thus, the sting of a saltwater catfish is extremely harmful and deadly, like the sting of a bee. However, this does not mean that the saltwater catfish is inedible or unsafe for human consumption. Saltwater catfish are edible and perfectly safe to eat, but the rocky spine is not.

Types Of Saltwater Catfish

There are thousands of species of fish like whales, sharks, catfish, rock skippers, and many more. Likewise, there are different species of saltwater catfish, but there are two commonly known types; hardhead catfish and sail catfish. In this guide, we will discuss the two common types of saltwater catfish.

Hardhead Catfish

This type of saltwater catfish is mainly found on the Canadian East Coast, Northwestern Atlantic, Florida and the United States. It is called hardhead catfish because it has a very hard and bony plate that runs from the dorsal fin to the eyes. Hardhead catfish weigh over 5.4 kg and can grow to be 71 cm long. The main habitat of this type of catfish is water shores, river mouths, brackish estuaries with sandy and muddy bottoms. Sometimes they can be found in the deeper parts of the ocean.

Hardhead catfish have four spikes located under the mouth just like other catfish, but the spikes on hardhead catfish are very hard and complex. It can cause intense damage even when a handler is using protective gloves.

Sail Catfish

This is another common type of saltwater catfish that is also called gafftop catfish. They can be found in the Atlantic Coast and the Caribbean Sea. They live in the same habitat as hardhead catfish. This species of catfish is smaller than other types of saltwater catfish. It weighs over 0 9 kilograms on average and can not grow longer than 40 cm.

Sail catfish has a poisonous spine on its back that secretes venom and can cause serious injuries if touched. The sting of the sail catfish is extremely poisonous and very painful. Sail Catfish can also be found in mangroves and lagoons because it protects them from predators.

A Guide To Catching Saltwater Catfish

Fishing is a fun-filled experience, especially when you have a great catch. To have a great catch, you need to use a very good fishing bait. Hence, if you are planning on catching a saltwater catfish, you need to use the right bait. Most saltwater catfish, including hardhead and sail catfish, are caught using natural bait. The basics of catching a saltwater catfish are the same as that of a freshwater catfish.

Hardhead catfish like chicken livers, raw bacon, baitfish and shrimps, hence, you can easily catch hardheads if you use these things as bait. While sail catfish, on the other hand, like crabs, shrimps, and worms, hence, they can serve as very good bait, besides artificial lures.

Since the fact that saltwater catfish are small in size; it requires the use of a saltwater fishing rod or reel. It is not advisable to use a freshwater fishing reel for your saltwater catch. Whatever you do, try to select a good saltwater bait for your fishing if you are after a saltwater catfish. Also, you should go fishing when it is nighttime and the tide is very low.


How To Clean Saltwater Catfish?

Catfish have slimy skin, which makes it difficult to clean. Saltwater is also extremely slimy. A lot of people don’t like saltwater catfish because it is made of more bones than meat. Generally, saltwater catfish are not easy to clean because of their venomous sharp barb. When cleaning catfish, you need to be very careful because of the poisonous spines on their head.

Just like cleaning other catfish, it is best to handle saltwater catfish with care. First, you need to use a sharp knife to cut the catfish from the head to the tail. After the incision, you need to peel off the skin surface from the flesh, then cut open the stomach and remove the intestines. After doing this, you can cut the flesh into your desired sizes. Also, it is advisable to use running water to wash the fish.

It is very important to take reasonable care when cleaning a saltwater catfish because it is slimmer and it has a poisonous spine. It is recommended that you use a hose or glove and a cutting board to have a good grip on the slimy fish.

How To Cook Saltwater Catfish?

After cleaning the saltwater catfish, you can cook the fish, deep fry it, grill it, or use it to make barbecue. Although most people prefer the deep frying method, the common ways you can cook a saltwater fish is by boiling and frying. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to cook a saltwater catfish.

Boiling Method

This is done by simply boiling the fish. First, you need to cut the fish from the head to the tail, then peel off the skin and remove the intestines. When this is done, you cut the fish into your desired size and use running water to wash it. Afterward, put it in a pot and you can add your seasoning to it. Then you boil for some minutes and serve as you like.

Frying Method

This entails deep frying of the fish. First, you need to cut the fish from the head to the tail while carefully avoiding the sharp spines. Then, peel off the skin and remove the intestines. When this is done, you cut the fish into your desired size andwash it under running water.

Next, mix flour or bread crumbs with seasoning, then roll the fish in this mixture. Place your frying pan on medium heat, put in enough vegetable oil and wait till it’s got. Deep fry the fish until it turns light brown and serve as you like.

Although, it is a matter of personal preference. Some people like saltwater catfish grilled while others like it fried, but the best method to choose is the deep frying method.

Frying Method

Do Saltwater Catfish Taste Good?

Here, the biggest factor remains your taste bud and personal preference. What tastes delicious to Mr. A might not be that delicious to Mr. B. Saltwater catfish are delicious and have a similar taste to freshwater catfish. Generally, the taste of saltwater catfish depends on what it feeds on. This species of catfish will have a mild taste if it lives in clean waters and eats fresh food.

However, if it lives in mud or dirty waters and eats lots of garbage; the fish tends to have a strong fishy flavor. Primarily, when the saltwater catfish consumes lots of fresh live meals; it has a moderate taste. Nonetheless, some people say that saltwater catfish tastes like ocean trout and other similar fish with white meat. The only difference is that saltwater catfish are saltier than other white meat fish.

So, yes, saltwater catfish taste good if it is gotten from a good source, but the flavor of the fish will be much milder if the catfish feeds on fresh and live food.

Frequently Asked Question

Do saltwater catfish have poisonous barbs?

As previously mentioned, Yes saltwater catfish have a poisonous barb on their back. This poisonous barb is mainly designed for self-defense to sting any of its attackers. The sting of a saltwater catfish is excruciatingly painful and venomous.

Are hardhead catfish venomous?

Hardhead catfish have four spikes located under the mouth just like other catfish. These four spikes are venomous but that does not mean that hardhead catfish are not edible. This type of catfish is both edible and venomous because of its spines.

What catfish can you eat?

Catfish are great eats. They are a very lovely and delicious catch. There are various species of catfish that are perfectly edible and safe for human consumption. You can eat both freshwater catfish and saltwater catfish.

What fish eats saltwater catfish?

Although saltwater catfish has a venomous spine that aids itsself-defense, it can still be eaten by some predators like sharks, cobia and other large finfish.

How do you fillet a saltwater catfish?

Fillet is the process of cutting the flesh of a fish away from the bone. To fillet a saltwater catfish, you need to place the fish vertically on a tabletop. First, cut off the head of the fish. Then locate the rib cage and cut it from there to the tail. They flip over and cut it out of the skin. Do this for both sides of the saltwater catfish.


Saltwater catfish may have been labeled as ‘trash fish’ but they are also a great eat. The frequent question is, can you eat saltwater catfish? Are they poisonous? have been answered in this guide. Although they have a poisonous barb, they are still safe for human consumption. Saltwater catfish are perfectly edible and taste a lot better than some other species of fish.

James Smith

Hi , i'm James Smith Author of I am a Blogger & Love to Reading Book with Learning and Shareing. Persionally, i'm very interested in Fishing & Hunting . In personal life, I am a father of two cute kid and loving husband of a beautiful wife.

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