Redfishman, Thank you for your input. You did not say where you do your fishing. That would help, perhaps explaining why your experience with hardheads has been such. How many hardheads have you eaten?
I have never noticed any coarse texture or ammonia smell. Neither have the scientists, much of whose research I have studied. Don`t want to be confrontational, just want to break the mantras. Professional guides, such as yourself perhaps, are the most influential voice in the recreational fisheries.
Here is the biological page on sea cats from the Louisiana Sea Grant website. Note at the bottom what their research has shown on edibility.
Scientific Name: Arius felis
Common Names: Sea Cat, Tourist Trout
Range & Habitat:Gulfwide, in all nearshore waters and saline and brackish estuarine waters. It is also occasionally found in fresh water. It tends to move from shallower to deeper waters in the winter months.
Identification & Biology:The hardhead catfish is colored dirty gray with a white underside. No scales are present on the skin. Four barbels are found under the chin and two more at the corners of the mouth. It does not have the elongated extensions on the dorsal and pectoral fins that the gafftopsail catfish has. The hardhead catfish has hard, sharp, venomous spines in its dorsal and pectoral fins and should be handled with care.
Hardhead catfish eat virtually anything, including 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. Because they are so common, it is often assumed that they produce a lot of eggs. Actually, each female produces only 14 to 64 mature eggs each season. After the male fertilizes the eggs, he holds them in his mouth until they hatch, and for a time thereafter. Spawning takes place from May to September in shallow marine bays and lakes.
Size:Usually 1 pound or less, but may reach 3 pounds.
Food Value:Seldom eaten, but it is very good table fare, better than the gafftopsail catfish.