Gafftop Catfish (Bagre marinus)
Common names: sailtop catfish, gafftop
Habitat/distribution: Coastal areas throughout the Gulf, including rivers, bays, and estuaries. Restricted to the greater Gulf area, extending a bit up the Atlantic seaboard, and south through areas of the Caribbean.
Method of harvest: White shrimp bycatch; trotlines
Season/availability: no season.
Size: Commercially harvested gafftops are generally between three and five pounds.
Cooking characteristics: Saltwater catfish tend to taste ‘cleaner’ than most freshwater catfish, due to greater movement of water in coastal areas. Flavor is subtler as well. Nice for frying of course, but used effectively in preserved applications (smoking and curing) as well. Pretty decent used with butter sauces as well. During spawns, the roe provides a unique treat. The female will generally be holding hundreds of eggs in various stages of development. The small undeveloped roe (resembling tapioca) is great in sauces. The larger eggs (transparent brown eggs, about the size and shape of small marbles) are much stronger in flavor, but not bad prepared properly.
Method of harvest: Large numbers are caught as bycatch from both the red snapper as well as vermillion fisheries.
Size: From one to 12 pounds, with about 4 the average.