Can You Eat Saltwater Catfish? Recipes, Preparing & Cooking

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Saltwater catfish have started to have a bad reputation over the last couple of years due to fishermen. Many do not like to catch saltwater catfish as they can be dangerous and generally do not have much meat. Therefore, because they are caught less, we generally eat them less. This leaves many of us wondering, can you eat saltwater catfish and what do they taste like? 

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In this article we will explore what types of saltwater catfish are edible, how they taste and how to cook the white meat.

Does Saltwater Catfish Taste Good?

The answer to if saltwater catfish tastes good is a complicated one. It really depends on your taste buds and food preference. 

Both hardhead catfish and gafftopsail catfish species are edible but have a bad reputation as they are difficult to fish and do not contain much meat. 

The taste of saltwater catfish is reported with mixed reviews. What makes up how the saltwater catfish tastes is what the saltwater catfish eats. Fish that ten to feed mostly by scavenging mud flats will have a much deeper, fishier flavour. The saltwater catfish is known to fit into this diet type. 

If a saltwater catfish feeds mainly on live natural fish, the flavour of the saltwater catfish meat will be much milder. 

If saltwater catfish are caught in polluted areas, they can consume food that may cause them to be less nutritious when eaten. Therefore it is best to get saltwater catfish from a good source.

Most people that have tried saltwater catfish report that it tastes very similar to other white fish meat like cod or haddock. Except that saltwater catfish tends to be saltier than other white fish meats.

giant catfish

How Do You Cook Saltwater Catfish?

Here is a simple method to cook saltwater catfish:

  • Step 1: Take care to avoid the poisonous spikes when cutting the saltwater catfish.
  • Step 2: Cut the head and tail by cutting with a single slice
  • Step 3: Start peeling the skin from the flesh, avoiding the sharp spikes.
  • Step 4: Roll the saltwater catfish meat in flour and panko bread crumbs along with your seasonings of choice. We recommend using black pepper and salt. 
  • Step 5: Fry the saltwater catfish meat in olive oil on a medium heat. Fry until the meat turns lightly browned.

How To Clean Saltwater Catfish

Saltwater catfish can be particularly difficult to clean as they are slimy. It is best to handle all saltwater catfish species with care when cleaning them as they have poisonous areas that can sting and pierce our skin. These areas are the fins and the spine.

Here is how to clean a saltwater catfish:

  • Step 1: It is best to start cutting the skin of the fish from the top fin down towards the tail
  • Step 2: Cut the skin off the saltwater catfish from the fin down to the tail on both sides before removing the head. 
  • Step 3: Remove all the skin from the saltwater catfish and cut the meat in half so there is no skin.
  • Step 4: Wash the meat under running water.
catfish dish

Saltwater Catfish Recipe

We have found a simple but tasty pan fried Saltwater Catfish Recipe by My Delicious Blog that you should try:

What you will need:

  • 1+ lb. catfish fillets
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (add more if the pan seems dry once the fillets are in there)

Fry mix:

  • 1 c finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c corn flour
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • *make the full batch – use about ¼ c for this recipe and store the remainder in an airtight container in the fridge.

Fish Marinade:

  • 1 c low-fat buttermilk
  • several dashes Sriracha or other hot sauce (add more if you like it really spicy)

Dipping Sauce:

  • ½ c. mayonnaise
  • 1 Tb. sweet relish
  • Few dashes Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice
  • Dash kosher salt
  • Few grinds fresh black pepper
  • Dash chile sauce or ketchup, for sweetness – optional

How to Make:

  • Step 1: For the Fry Mix, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
  • Step 2: In a shallow dish, stir hot sauce into buttermilk for the Fish Marinade.
  • Step 3: Mix ingredients for Dipping Sauce and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Step 4; Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add butter and oil.
  • Step 5: Dip fish fillets into buttermilk mixture, then into Fry Mix. Keep turning and pressing into the mixture to thoroughly coat the fillets.
  • Step 6: When butter/oil is melted/heated up, add the fillets. Cook first side until golden brown (about 3 minutes — be sure it’s nice and brown before flipping). Flip and cook other side until golden brown. Lower the heat to medium-low if it seems to be scorching the fish.
  • Step 7: Remove from pan and serve with Dipping Sauce.

What Kind Of Saltwater Catfish Can You Eat

There are several species of saltwater catfish that are edible and worth eating. The three most common species of edible saltwater catfish are hardhead catfish, and gafftopsail catfish.

Here is a description of the two different types of edible saltwater catfish:

  • Hardhead catfish: Hardhead catfish are mainly bait. Fishermen use them for catching other fish as they are not very meaty.
  • Gafftopsail catfish: Gafftopsail catfish are consumed regularly and are very popular. Even though they are popular, the gafftopsail catfish are slimy and hard to clean.
person fishing

Video Guide To Catch, Clean & Cook Saltwater Cat Fish

FAQs About Eating Saltwater Catfish

Is Saltwater Catfish Poisonous?

The quick answer is yes, saltwater catfish can be very poisonous. Saltwater catfish contain venom in their spine which can cause a painful string if we come into contact with it. Many believe it is best to avoid fishing for saltwater catfish as they are not worth the trouble and health risks that are involved. The stings that the saltwater catfish venom produce can cause long term health issues such as gangrene of the long and small fingers which lead to amputation needed. 
Saltwater catfish are very risky to fish but are completely safe to eat. Although many people do not bother as they are not a particularly sought after fish and the effort it takes to catch them outweighs the positives of cooking and consuming them.

What Part Of A Saltwater Catfish Is Poisonous?

The part of the saltwater catching that is poisonous is the sharp, serrated spines that are next to the top and the side fins. These fins are very sharp and can pierce our skin, often drawing blood. The most poisonous part about a saltwater catfish is that the mucous that covers the spine also contains a painful toxin which can be very damaging towards our health if we make contact with this poisonous mucus.

Give Saltwater Catfish A Try!

After all of our research on saltwater catfish we believe that you should give it a try to see what if you like the taste.

If you are wanting to cook saltwater catfish, the wise thing to do is make sure you get the meat from somewhere reputable. It is important to make sure that the saltwater catfish hasn’t been caught in a polluted area before consuming. As saltwater catfish are poisonous, it may be best to purchase the meat when it has already been prepared to avoid causing yourself stings and health issues. 

Have you tried saltwater catfish? How would you describe the taste of saltwater catfish?

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By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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