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22 responses to “Reflections on Catfish”

  1. steve

    Great post – now I will watch for a follow up on your favorite ways of cleaning and cooking them.

    I have eaten them all my life, but they have never tasted as good as when I went ‘down south’; I cannot account for the difference.

    If you are ever in MN, try some river fishing. As big yachts motor by, we sit in a repaired flat bottom and catch channel cats…

  2. tai haku

    Sounds like my kind of a day fishing.

  3. hodgeman

    Thanks Hank,
    Brings back memories from when I fished for catfish via trotline with my Grandad.

    Despite living in a fish paradise I still love a good piece of fried catfish.

  4. Corey Beavers

    Very enjoyable post. Right smack in north Georgia, I’m very familiar with the anti-catfish sentiments, even said a couple of those things myself before. Where were you able to find the fishing consumption advisories/pollutants? Sounds like good info to have.

  5. Jose

    I used to fish for channel cats in the north branch of the Muskegon river, usually at night. My brother-in-law and I would load up the boat with deli food and stuff to drink and then spend the night fishing, eating and drinking, bobbing in the current in his twelve-foot vee-bottom aluminum boat with it’s powerful seven horse outboard that was somewhat prone to blowing head gaskets.

    We used cut bait. In the early spring we’d seine for alewifes. Chop them up and freeze them, great bait for cats.
    I’ve never cared all that much for the taste of channel cats, but what the hell, it was fun and much better than frozen fish sticks from the stupor markup.

    I always liked it better when we went after bullheads. Much tastier IMNSHO. Or Flatheads! Flathead cats are outstanding.

  6. Jackson Landers

    I spent the last few years fishing mostly for largemouth bass and crappie. This year I made an effort to get good at catfishing. I can honestly say that I’d rather catch catfish than largemouths now. Both are fun, but I think that catfish yield more and better food per fish in exchange for less work. No scaling required and if you filet them right away then you don’t even need to gut them.

  7. Andrew

    A blog post fit for a book. Excellent story. I feel the same way about dogfish shark.

  8. Ricardo Rodríguez

    Hey Hank, any thought on salt water catfish? specifically in the Gulf of Mexico waters. The times I have catch them always throw them back, because since I was little was told by my dad they are not fit for consumption, and seems that everybody around here agree.
    Once I was fishing where the River Soto La Marina meets the Gulf, in Tamaulipas, near La Pesca, and just about every two or three times I cast got a cat. Must have caught 20 or more of them during the day. All went back to the water.

  9. Shirley @ gluten free easily

    I absolutely love this piece, Hank! Your description of Jay Dee is perfection. We’ve caught a few catfish over the years, both in the Rappahannock and the Shenandoah, and I love catching them, but not cleaning them. 😉 We have a friend who loves catching, cleaning, and filleting them though so we trade him venison for catfish. This ongoing barter works well for all of us!

    Anyway, sounds like you got your money’s worth with Jay Dee and a 5-lb cat!


  10. Liesel

    Hank, what a lovely story. I prefer my characters to be a bit on the crusty side! I had never eaten catfish before I met my husband, a Texan. Now we live in Idaho where most of the catfish are caught/eaten by the migrant worker community (as far as I can tell). We went and caught a huge mess of them one night on the Owyhee and had a whole bunch of friends over the next weekend for a catfish fry; most had never eaten them before. Good intro! They were a hit.

    The most fun I’ve ever had catfishing was in Hells Canyon on the Snake. We’re whitewater rafters and decided to take a cast and blast trip opening weekend of chukar season. What a trip! Chukar (usually ridiculously strenuous hunting) practically greeted us on the banks, a few geese also made it into our cache, steelhead were running and the channel cats were HUGE. We even got to see a sturgeon porpoise in the eddy next to camp while we were having our morning coffee. These were all in addition to the super fun rapids and gorgeous scenery. We will be repeating that trip next year! I highly recommend the experience if you ever get the chance. The one thing we won’t be repeating: running after the chukar through the desert in our drysuits. Nearly death by personal sauna!

  11. Ed

    Great story. We usually end our fishing trips with some time on shore to drink some wine and fish for cats. Great fun and relaxation.

    Here’s a couple of fishing tips I learned from my buddy who learned from master here in Nor Cal. 1) Don’t use any weight on your line, just your hook and bait. 2) If the catfish gets the line wrapped around an obstruction don’t try and horse it in, just let the line go slack and wait. The catfish will eventually swim itself free. I was amazed the first time I tried it.

  12. Ed

    One more thing. It was asked how to clean a catfish. There are a bunch of videos on Youtube that show you how. One guy, Captain Vincent, usually has the best ways to clean many varieties of fish. Here’s how he cleans a catfish

  13. Benjamin Williams

    As an Arkansan I grew up eating catfish one way, corn breaded and deep fried. Now I think there is a movement to use catfish in more ways. On Friday I had Tumeric Yogurt Catfish; a mix of Indian and Southern flavors, it was tasty.
    Thanks for the story,

  14. Dan M.

    The song is called Baba O’Riley.

  15. Matt

    The channel cat. There’s not a farm pond around here (Indiana) that wasn’t stocked with them. When I was a kid you didn’t fish for them if you had all your teeth but now I think people have come around to the great sport that they are. In Indiana they are in almost every body of water and can be caught with just about anything. I got permission to fish a lot of ponds by promising to keep every cat I caught. Some people think the reason they only have little bluegill in their pond is because the big cats are eating them. They don’t understand that the fish are stunted from over population. There were a lot of Saturdays of me standing at my fish cleaning table with a bucket full of 5″-6″ bluegill, one or two cats and the cheapest 6 pack I could buy.

  16. Bill Bird

    Hank, you bring back some good memories of fishing for cat in the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers that ran by the front door of home in Modesto. It was there, where I would pedal my way to the Ninth Street bridge, bait the line with chicken livers and fish for my favorite catch of the day: catfish. Unfortunately, you’ll come to find that most of the cat pulled out of our rivers have high levels of mercury contamination, a leftover of the CA Gold Rush. There are far closer areas to fish for cat, such as the canals that line North Natomas. I see people casting for cat all the time.

  17. Peter Arnold

    What a lot of people don’t know is that some cats strike on cst lures. Here in a pond of the Sierra foothills my son once caught an 8 pounder on a rooster tail.

  18. chuck

    I buy farm raised catfish at the local supermarket and use it in Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew with coconut milk) and most oddly, in ceviche. I like Alton Browns catfish ceviche recipe, but with more peppers and garlic. Graprfruit juice and lime juice (and zest of both) go really well with what amounts to catfish and fresh pico de gallo….

  19. Mama's High Strung™ » Blog Archive » Kitchen Think: This Week’s Food News You Need To Know

    […] defines where you stand in this world quite so much as the catfish.” Hank Shaw on the wonders of cat fishing in California (!) and a delicious recipe. image by hank […]

  20. Christina

    Loved your piece. Gave you a shout out on my website:
    As a Texan, I just love catfish… I’ll be firing up your blackened recipe soon!

  21. Ron

    mmmm…. I’m an Ozark boy and love catfish! I have a question about another southern delicacy for you – Do you ever do anything with crawdads?

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