Gafftopsails are generally common to abundant in their range. Its appearance is typical for a catfish except for the deeply forked tail and the venomous, serrated spines. It also has a little hump that looks somewhat like a wave. The anal fin is a few inches anterior to the tail and is white or pale blue, with rays on it and a high, anterior lobe. The gafftopsail catfish has maxillary barbels and one pair of barbels on the chin.
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Superorder: Ostariophysi Species Description Both marine catfishes Ariidae and freshwater catfishes Ictaluridae are notable for their unscaled skin, forked caudal fins, adipose fins set anterior to the caudal peduncle, and the presence of large, serrated spines positioned anterior to the dorsal fin and the pectoral fins.
Marine catfishes are separated from Ictalurids based on the absence of barbels on the nostrils, and by their body color, which is typically steel blue dorsally, fading to silver laterally, and white ventrally.
Bagre marinus, the gafftopsail catfish, is an elongate marine catfish that reaches There is a single dorsal fin having 1 strong, serrated spine and 7 soft rays. The first ray of the dorsal and pectoral fins have extended, white filaments equal to or exceeding the length of the dorsal spine.
The anal fin has rays. The pectoral fins have 1 spine and rays, and the ventral fin has 6 rays. There is a distinctive V-shaped indentation on the posterior margin of the anal fin. The head is slightly depressed, with the mouth inferior. Three pairs of barbels are present, one pair on the maxilla and 2 pairs set under the chin. The maxillary pair of barbels are elongate and reach nearly to the ventral fins, which are set well behind the dorsal fin. The adipose fin is tipped in black, while the remainder of the fins are pale to dusky in color.
Females have larger pelvic fins than males Lee ;Merriman ; Muncy and Wingo Reproduction Bagre marinus females caught on the Gulf coast of Alabama had well-developed oocytes beginning in April Swingle Gafftopsail catfishes spawn repeatedly over an approximately 10 day period from May - August in inshore mudflats Jones et al.
Eggs are passed to, or picked up by, males, who incubate and brood them in their mouths for 60 - 80 days Gunter ; Ward Embryology Eggs are large at fertilization, measuring mm 0. Parental care by males offsets low fecundity of females, which have only 20 - 65 eggs per spawning event Merriman ; Ward ; Jones et al. Numerous small, non-functioning eggs are often found attached to large, viable eggs. Gunter speculated that these smaller eggs might be utilized as a food source for males brooding offspring.
Eggs of Bagre marinus are brooded in the mouth of males and hatch within 42 days when held under laboratory conditions Jones et al. Larvae measure mm 1. Adult characteristics are present at absorption of the yolk sac but juveniles tend to remain with the parent, retuning to its mouth for protection, for a short time thereafter. Juveniles measure mm 3.
Juneau reported juveniles in Vermillion Bay, Louisiana during summer and fall when water temperatures ranged between They avoid low temperature waters in the winter months by migrating offshore where water temperatures are more stable, returning to inshore areas in the spring.
Salinity Juveniles have no specific salinity preferences, and are found in waters of parts per thousand ppt. Adults have been reported to inhabit fresh water areas, but tend to be more common where salinity ranges from 5 - 30 ppt Perret et al. Algae, seagrasses, cnidarians, sea cucumbers, gastropods, polychaetes, shrimps, crabs, and other fishes comprise the bulk of the diet Merriman Males carrying eggs or juveniles do not feed Muncy and Wingo Habitats Though Bagre marinus has has been reported in freshwater locations Muncy and Wingo , most juveniles leave estuarine areas for offshore waters in the winter months, but return to bays and estuaries from May - June, prior to spawning Gunter Trawl surveys in the estuaries of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas reveal that 10 - times fewer juvenile gafftopsail catfishes are captured inshore than are sea catfishes Hoese et al.
Juneau reported Bagre marinus inhabits estuaries in Louisiana primarily throughout the summer and fall months. Activity Time Gunter and Jones et al. Fisheries Importance Commercial Fishery Though edible, the gafftopsail catfish is not generally consumed as a food fish, with many commercial and sport fishers regarding it as a nuisance species due to its dorsal and pectoral spines, which are large, serrated, and capable of causing painful wounds Muncy and Wingo However, gafftopsail catfishes do have limited commercial importance and are harvested for industrial purposes in commercial bottom trawling operations Muncy and Wingo From - , 1.
Lucie, Martin encompassing the Indian River Lagoon. Figure 1 below shows the dollar value of the commercial fishery of catfishes to IRL counties by year. Martin County accounted for the largest percentage of the marine catfish harvest with Lucie County, which accounts for Brevard, Volusia, and Indian River Counties accounted for Martin County again accounts for the bulk of the harvest in , however, the other 4 IRL Counties also saw greatly increased catches of catfishes in this year.
Figure 1. Annual dollar value of the commercial catch of marine catfishes sea catfish and gafftopsail catfish to the 5-county area of the Indian River Lagoon.
Figure 2. Total marine catfish sea catfish and gafftopsail catfish dollar value and percentage by county for the years - Table 1. Table 2. By-county annual and cumulative percentages of the marine catfish sea catfish and gafftopsail catfish harvest for the years Table 3. By-county cumulative dollar value and percentage of total for the marine catfish sea catfish and gafftopsail catfish harvest from - Recreational Fishery Though the gafftopsail catfish is considered a nuisance species by many, between - recreational anglers in the IRL harvested 46, gafftopsail catfishes, ranking it fortieth among the most harvested IRL species.
It was also captured from other inshore waters, nearshore waters and offshore waters around the IRL. The information below reflects angler survey information taken from the 5-county area that encompasses the Indian River Lagoon.
Approximately , gafftopsail catfishes were harvested in east central Florida between - The bulk of the recreational harvest Inland waters other than the IRL account for Figure 3.
Survey data for the gafftopsail catfish recreational fishery showing the number of fishes harvested in East Florida waters from - Figure 4. Summary of the gafftopsail catfish recreational harvest and percentage of total by area from - Table 4. Summary data for recreational fishery in Eastern Florida waters for the gafftopsail catfish, Bagre marinus, from - Table 5. By-county annual and cumulative percentages of the gafftopsail catfish harvest for the years - Table 6.
Summary of the gafftopsail catfish recreational harvest and percentage of total fish captured in each area from - Life history requirements of selected finfish and shellfish in Mississippi Sound and adjacent areas.
Doermann, J. Huddleston, D. Lipsey, and S. Age and rate of growth of the sea catfish, Arius felis, in Mississippi coastal waters. Gallaway, B. Seasonal abundance and distribution of marine fisheries at a hot-water discharge in Galveston Bay, Texas.
Gunter, G. Seasonal variations in abundance of certain estuarine and marine fishes in Louisiana with particular reference to life histories. Observations on breeding of the marine catfish, Gaelichthys felis Linnaeus. Copeia Biological investigation of the St.
Lucie estuary Florida in connection with Lake Okeechobee discharges through the St. Lucie Canal. Gulf Res. Harvey, E. Observations on the distribution of the sea catfish Arius felis larvae with and without chorion, with respect to salinity in the Biloxi Bay - Mississippi Sound Area. Jones, P. Martin, and J. Hardy, Jr. Development of fishes in the mid-Atlantic bight. An atlas of egg, larval, and juvenile stages. Acipenseridae through Ictaluridae.
Fish and Wildlife Service. I : Lee, G. Oral gestation in the marine catfish, Galeichthys felis. Merriman, D. Morphological and embryological studies on two species of marine catfish, Bagre marinus and Galeichthys felis. Zoologica 25 13 i Muncy, R.
Bagre marinus (Mitchill, 1815)