What’s a Trash Fish? (Rough Fish?)


Catfish is a common Florida trash fish.

You know when you’re out fishing for a specific fish or fishes and you have done everything possible to catch that fish, and instead you catch a fish that you don’t want?

That’s a Trash Fish! Rough Fish! Whatever you want to call it. A trash fish is one that anglers don’t want to catch.

These are the undesirable fish that people immediately throw back into the water or feed to the pelicans.

A Trash Fish is

  • no fun to catch, not a good fighter
  • one you usually cannot eat
  • very common to the point of annoyance

What Are Some Examples of Trash Fish?


I really don’t like catching catfish. I’ll catch any other fish other than a catfish and be happier. Catfish also love the bottom and are hanging around in huge numbers to eat anything that hugs the bottom.

They can also grab something up off the bottom and you’ll be surprised when you catch them sometimes.

Saltwater and freshwater catfish are slimy, have virtually no food value (I can’t eat it), and have a very sharp, strong, and venomous first spine in the dorsal that can puncture your hand.

They have this very annoying habit of being relaxed as you’re unhooking them then violently flipping hard and stabbing you with the venomous spine. It hurts like mad. I’ve had a few too many stabs from cats.

This is the WORST trash fish in the water. Unfortunately they are in fresh and saltwater!


Blowfish being shown to tourists.
Blowfish are bizarre animals that are good for gawking at, but that’s about it!

Puffer fish or blowfish are some of the most annoying fish to catch because you might catch them over and over for hours.

The problem is, they are in shallow water so if you’re fishing from shore and can only cast out so far and there is no deep water, you may catch them often.

These fish love shrimp and small dead fish because they’re not fast swimmers. If you’re fishing on the bottom with dead shrimp, you’re almost definitely going to catch some puffer fish!

CAUTION – puffers and blowfish almost all contain a highly toxic poison that can kill people, tetrodotoxin. DO NOT EAT!

Reef Fish

A yellow reef fish with parrot mouth.
Yellow reef fish has enough meat on it, but could be risky. ©Salty101

I usually don’t catch reef fish, but when I do I mutter something under my breath and toss them back in as soon as possible. All reef fish like parrot fish are trash fish and the risk of ciguaterra poisoning is too high for me to chance it.

Did you know one of the symptoms of this poisoning is that your sense of heat and cold REVERSES? It’s a crazy poison. Best to stay away. Barracuda and some other fish often have this toxin.


These are hard fighting fish, but that’s where the fun ends. Some people eat them but they have high levels of mercury, arsenic, and chromium because they’re at the top of the freshwater food chain and they live a long time.

This is definitely the trash fish that is the most fun to catch, but it’s still TRASH!

Pinfish and Other Bait-Stealing Fish

Pinfish and other bait stealers can be infuriating if you’re targeting speckled trout in the sea grass in the shallows. The pinfish are far more numerous and often reach your shrimp or other bait before the trout can.

If your shrimp are being eaten by bait stealers, it’s best to switch tactics because they’ll eat ALL your shrimp before you catch your targeted species.

Trout will also eat whole pinfish! Put a small one on and see what happens. Pinfish won’t eat other pinfish. At least not while it’s alive and has energy.

The Worst Trash Fish Ever? LADYFISH!

These little stinkers will grab anything near the top of the water and run line off your reel so fast you’ll get very excited. If you’re lucky, you’ll see it leap out of the water then you’ll know that it’s a ladyfish.

Or, if it’s possible you have a mahi, then you may have lucked out. Almost always it’s one of these crap fish, ladyfish.

Ladyfish are just annoying because like pinfish on the bottom, ladyfish in the top of the water column can play games with you for hours by grabbing your bait which is meant for other sport fish.

Fishing Tip: The only GOOD THING about Ladyfish? If you’re catching them, the Pompano may be right there in the same area! Pompano are delicious fish to eat.

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About the Author

My name is Vern Lovic. I grew up in Pennsylvania fishing for trout in the streams and bass in the lakes. I’ve fished both coasts of Florida for more than a decade, but I’ve been primarily on the West Coast around St. Petersburg. I fish mostly from a Kayak and pier along with wade-fishing and shore fishing but I occasionally will go out on a boat with one of my friends.

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