You feel a tug on your line. You reel in with visions of trout or a redfish only to see…..a catfish! This weekend will see Rockport swell with visitors. Many of those visitors will try their hand at fishing. One fish that is likely to end up on their hook is the notorious hardhead catfish. Understanding this fish and being aware of the pain (actual, physical pain – not the pain of losing some bait) they can inflict is vital for both experienced and new anglers. Please keep an extra close eye on your young and excited fisherfolk as a puncture from one of these catfish can quickly ruin a good time.
There are two main saltwater catfish in the area; hardheads and gaff-topsail cats. The name “hardhead” is derived from the presence of a hard, bony plate extending rearward toward the dorsal fin from a line between the catfish’s eyes (and not a reflection on the person holding the rod!) The gaff-topsail catfish has extremely elongated dorsal and pectoral fins that resemble a ship’s sail, and this feature is not present in the hardhead catfish. It is also important to note that the gaff-top has a minimum length requirement of 14 inches with no bag limit and there is no limit on hardheads. Also, while both catfish have a natural slime coating, the gaff-topsail is a veritable slime monster. If you catch one, you will have slime coating everything it touches and a snot-like covering on your line.