Yellow catfish (Pelteobagrus fulvidraco) is one of the most important freshwater fish due to its delicious flesh and high nutritional value. However, lack of sufficient simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers has hampered the progress of genetic selection breeding and molecular research for yellow catfish. To this end, we aimed to develop and characterize polymorphic expressed sequence tag (EST)-SSRs from the 454 pyrosequencing transcriptome of yellow catfish. Totally, 82,794 potential EST-SSR markers were identified and distributed in the coding and non-coding regions. Di-nucleotide (53,933) is the most abundant motif type, and AC/GT, AAT/ATT, AAAT/ATTT are respective the most frequent di-, tri-, tetra-nucleotide repeats. We designed primer pairs for all of the identified EST-SSRs and randomly selected 300 of these pairs for further validation. Finally, 263 primer pairs were successfully amplified and 57 primer pairs were found to be consistently polymorphic when four populations of 48 individuals were tested. The number of alleles for the 57 loci ranged from 2 to 17, with an average of 8.23. The observed heterozygosity (HO), expected heterozygosity (HE), polymorphism information content (PIC) and fixation index (FIS) values ranged from 0.04 to 1.00, 0.12 to 0.92, 0.12 to 0.91 and -0.83 to 0.93, respectively. These EST-SSR markers generated in this study could greatly facilitate future studies of genetic diversity and molecular breeding in yellow catfish.