Latin name

Bagre marinus

Other names

Bandera, sailboat cat, gafftopsail sea catfish, gafftop cat, tourist trout; Portuguese: bagre-fita; Spanish: bagre cacumo.


The Gafftopsail catfish has a grayish-blue dorsal fin, silvery pelvic fins, a strong body, and a depressed broad head with several flattened barbs. The dorsal and pectoral fins have strongly elongated spines.


These fish are found along the western Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to Panama and throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and are abundant in Louisiana and Texas. They are absent from most of the West Indies and the Caribbean Islands, but are present as far west as Cuba to Venezuela and as far south as Brazil.


Catfish prefer deeper channels, especially brackish water in bays and estuaries with sandy bottoms high in organic matter. They prefer water with temperatures ranging from 68° to 95 °F.


Mature specimens grow to 36 inches and 10 pounds. Average small fish weigh less than a pound to 11⁄2 pounds and reach 17 inches in length. The maximum age is unknown.

Life history and Behavior

Catfish move in large flocks and migrate in winter from bays and estuaries to the shallow open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This movement and migration in coastal and estuaries waters of the Gulf is related to spawning activity and environmental conditions. Spawning occurs in coastal mudflat waters from April through July and has some unusual characteristics. Catfish reach sexual maturity at age 2 and are 10 to 11 inches long. At this time, they are 10 to 11 inches long. They have a low fecundity, producing 20 to 64 eggs per female. Their eggs are believed to be the largest of all eggs produced by bonefish. Males hatch eggs and young in their mouths for 11 to 13 weeks until they reach a length of about 3 inches.

Food and feeding habits

The primary food is unidentifiable organic matter. The secondary food is fish from other trophic groups. Unlike many other catfish, which mainly feed on the bottom, the Gafftopsail catfish feeds throughout the water column. It eats mostly crustaceans, including crabs, shrimp, and can also eat worms, other invertebrates, and bony fish.


Catfish spawn over coastal mudflats during a relatively short period (10 days) from May to August. Eggs are about 1 inch in diameter. Males hold up to 55 eggs in their mouths until they hatch. The young are about 2 inches long when they hatch, and the male may continue to incubate them until they reach 4 inches in length. Males do not feed while they are carrying eggs or calves.

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Siluriformes
Family Ariidae
Genus Bagre
Species B. marinus
Conservation status Least Concern
Habitat Pelagic
Life span, years No information
Maximum body weight, kg 12.5
Maximum length, cm 112
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating Omnivore

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Catfish, Gafftopsail

Tags: Catfish, Gafftopsail