Hardhead Catfish (species #1)
The hardhead can be the bane of a dead-bait angler’s day on the water because those pesky cats can be anywhere along the coast. And they are not picky about what they consume. A Sea Grant study indicated that hardheads will eat algae, pieces of plants, worms, snails, clams, microscopic zooplankton, marine shrimp, grass shrimp, blue crabs, mud crabs, insects, spiders, small fish, smaller hardhead catfish, hermit crabs, fish bones, mud, sand, and even scales actively taken from living fish.
Hardheads seldom get larger than a pound, but you need to be very careful after you catch one. The barbed pectoral and dorsal spines can inflict nasty wounds on your hands. If you get stuck, wash the area quickly and apply some sort of antibiotic treatment. If you’re surf fishing and land a hardhead, please don’t leave the fish on the beach where nearby beachgoers could accidentally step on a spine and cause a painful injury.
It’s not hard to catch a hardhead. Use about any kind of bait you can imagine on a small hook and toss it off the Gulf State Park Pier or in any of the brackish water along the coast.
As for food value, it’s not much. Those who have tried to clean hardheads said the yield of meat is not worth the effort and flesh does have a “fishy” taste.
However, cobia love to eat small hardheads. If you’re headed out in the boat to look for cobia, catch a half-dozen small hardheads and use wire cutters to carefully clip off the three barbs. Hook the hardhead and toss him in front of a cobia, and he can’t resist it.