What’s Biting: Catfish Fishing in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Saltwater anglers on Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast will have encounters with two species of catfish – the infamous hardhead catfish and the beautiful gafftopsail catfish.
Gafftopsail Catfish (species #2)
The other catfish species Alabama anglers can catch is the gafftopsail catfish, also called sailcats, which is easily identifiable by its long strands that extend from all its fins. The dorsal fin resembles the mast of a sailboat, hence the name.
Sailcats are less numerous than hardheads, so you need to be more specific when fishing for this species. Gafftops love the deeper water in the bays, especially Perdido Bay. Load up with some cutbait and fish the bottom in Perdido Bay and you’ll likely hook a sailcat pretty quickly.
Like the hardhead, avoid the spines on a gafftop because they have a toxin that can cause a nasty sting. If you get stuck, use the same method of cleansing as the hardhead.
One of the telltale signs of a gafftop on the line is the slime that gets coated on your fishing line when you reel the fish in. Be sure to bring along one of your old ice chests to throw the gafftops in because it takes some effort to get rid of the slime.
However, in terms of food value, sailcats are significantly better than hardhead and are worth the trouble. Gafftops can get as big as 8-10 pounds and yield significant fillets. Wash the fillets well, past them dry, dip in milk and your favorite fish fry mix before dropping them in 350-degree oil.
I’ve got a friend on the Gulf Coast who loves eating gafftops so much that he threatened bodily harm if he heard I had caught and released a gafftop.
So grab some dead bait and head out to the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast for some catfishing, but watch out for those spines.