Gafftopsail Catfish (Bagre marinus)

Photo of gafftopsail catfish

Garold W. Sneegas ©

Other Names
Gafftop, Seacat
Regulated nongame species - see bag & size limits

Gafftopsail catfish are named for the dorsal fin that rises from their back like a sail. A close look reveals the sharp spines that support the dorsal, or back, fin and the pectoral fins on the fish's sides. These spines are not only sharp, they also have a coating of toxic slime.

Average size is about 2.5 pounds with larger fish caught in the fall. Maximum size is about 2 feet in length and 8 pounds in weight. Texas record is 13.33 pounds and 34 inches; 1981.
Life History
Spawning occurs in the spring. The eggs are large, ranging up to 1 inch in diameter, and are carried in the mouth of the male after fertilization until they hatch and the fry can feed on their own. The male does not eat during this period which may extend up to 65 days.
The fish most often feeds near the bottom of the water column and can usually be found there.
The gafftopsail catfish ranges from Panama to Cape Cod and is very abundant in Texas waters.
How To Catch
Live shrimp, small crabs and small live pinfish are good natural baits. Artificial worms and spoons also work well. The fish will feed throughout the water column, but baits fished near the bottom work best.
Where To Catch
Can be caught in bay or Gulf waters.
How To Eat
The fish is edible, but difficult to prepare and not usually eaten by local residents.