The common name, hardhead catfish, is derived from the presence of a hard, bony plate extending rearward toward the dorsal fin from a line between the catfish's eyes. It is an elongate marine catfish that reaches 19.5 in. (49.5 cm) in length.
The average weight is under 1 pound, but they may reach up to 3 pounds. They are often a dirty gray color on top, with white undersides. The world record hardhead catfish was 3 pounds, 5 ounces.
Hardhead catfish are found mostly in the near shore waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean, around the southeast coast of the United States, around the Florida Keys, and around the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Hardhead catfish are also found in brackish estuaries and river mouths where the bottom is sandy or muddy. It tends to move from shallower to deeper waters in the winter months.
Hardhead catfish are voracious feeders and will bite on almost any natural bait. Hardhead catfish are also known to steal bait.
Shrimp is a particularly effective bait to use. When fishing for this species in fresh water, assorted meats tend to work best as bait. For example: bacon, chicken, cuts of steak, and smaller fish. A size 1 hook is usually effective for catching this fish. Anglers commonly use lightweight tackle if they are fishing specifically for this species, but many others use heavyweight tackle because the hardhead catfish seems to bite equally well on both.
Care must be taken in handling hardhead catfish because the slime on their spines is mildly poisonous. If the skin is punctured, pain and swelling will ensue, and infection may set in. The spine is barbed, which makes withdrawal an even more unpleasant process