Floating fish aggregating devices (FADs) have long been used to attract fish in NW Sicily since antiquity. Recently, a number of changes have been made to the type of material employed to construct FADs, with the aim of increasing their effectiveness. In this paper we compare the catches made at eight experimental floating FADs (polypropylene ropes frayed at the ends) with those obtained at eight traditional FADs in the Gulf of Castellammare. A total of 672 samples were collected during summer and autumn in 1995 and 1996 at the 16 FADs using a surrounding net. Visual observations of fishes associated with the FADs were also conducted to obtain qualitative information about the spatial distribution of species. A total of 1632 specimens weighing 144 kg and belonging to eight species were caught during the survey. Seriola dumerili, Caranx crysos, C. rhonchus and Coryphaena hippurus were the most frequent and abundant species accounting for 96% of the total catch. Average fish abundance and weight, characterised by high variance, were significantly higher at the sites with experimental FADs than at the sites with traditional FADs. S. dumerili was the only species with higher catches around the experimental FADs. Some spatial and temporal variations in fish abundance and size were also detected. Younger individuals of S. dumerili were observed to show high affinity for the experimental FAD tufts.