|I only eat Chicken Liver|
as part of my Catfish
|A Face only a Mother could love|
|Not MY Catfish|
Now, the catfish isn't a particularly discerning eater. At this pond where families are frequently fed and the ducks even more so, catfish probably enjoy a diet that includes, bread, hot dogs and marshmallows. His sense of smell is far better than his sight, hence the "stink bait," and his activities pick up around dusk.
|The Actual Pond, not my secret spot...|
Catching a catfish is a fun experience for anyone. This isn't a fish that will struggle against your line like a Largemouth Bass. You don't get the epic fight with a jerking pole. This guy once he realizes he is hooked will extend his pectoral fins (the ones in front of the pictured hand) and essentially anchor himself to whatever is around him.
The trick to dislodging a crafty cat is to walk up and down the bank to tug on him in a direction he is not expecting. Once his anchor is broken, he will struggle a bit and try to swim away, until he is able to re-anchor himself. Lather, rinse, repeat until the line snaps or he is on land.
I recall that between my friend Mike and I, we probably had 7 poles baited and cast. We'd done this with some success over the years and often caught smaller cats. We had also hooked what we assumed to be a turtle or three. You almost never reel in a turtle, they bite through the hook or line and would likely snap the pole if it were close enough.
But this was a new night, a new destiny...
Within ten minutes of getting our lines wet, two bells rang. The two of us leaped to the poles, as a turtle can easily drag a pole into the water. Mike manned his pole and I mine. We worked in tandem walking the banks sometimes in the same direction, often crossing, to land the fish.
Mike was able to land his fish in a more timely fashion and he wasn't a keeper. The small fish croaked it's displeasure about breathing air as Mike worked to remove the hook. Because catfish swallow their food whole, the hook is often too deep to recover, but with a long handled dentist tool (somehow dentistry finds its way into another post!) we could often remove the hook. The alternative is to cut the line and release the fish. Often the line cut is preferred because the catfish has a venom in its fins that can cause quite a sting if the fisherman's skin is broken.
I was still fighting mine and was fairly certain that I hadn't hooked a log or worse a turtle. As I worked my way and down the bank, the park ranger was making his way over to close up our shop.
Normally, we could make enough small talk to finish landing a hooked fish, but there were a few times that the menacing teenager with a flashlight forced lines to be reeled or cut. As this was our only bells for the evening, the idea of cutting lines, the proverbial cutting bait, wasn't in our plans.
As Mike worked on chatting with the ranger and pulling in our other lines, I continued my valiant fight to bring this spare tire on land. As I began to fear that I had hooked a smaller turtle, each bend of my pole sure to be its last, the line began to move closer to shore. Normally, neither turtles or catfish (or spare tires for that matter) will choose to swim into shallower waters, so I was truly mystified by what was going to be on land in mere moments.
As I was getting closer to my prize, or he to me, the Ranger decided to show some interest in my catch and wandered over. Keenly aware that he likely wanted to cite me for pulling a tire from the lake that was not covered by my permit, I made sure he knew I had a fish on the line.
As I pulled mightily on my pole (did I just say that out loud) the most beautifully ugly catfish face was born into the oxygen. Heaving the first of the last breaths he would take with a characteristic croaking noise, his fate sealed, he extended all his fins in one last attempt to cause bodily harm. I had caught a lunker. I have no idea what that means, but it felt right to say it. He was clearly longer than the ten inches he needed to be for me to keep him. His weight came in around 17 pounds, but with catfish you never know if they've just eaten three sets of bait, hooks and weights.
I exclaimed to Mike in the loudest and proudest voice I could muster: "Catfish for Dinner!"
Stay tuned next week for Part II: Catfish Flambé or How I Burned Down Mom's Kitchen
I'm again participating in YeahWrite which is an outstanding collection of writers. Click the picture and read some of the 75 outstanding entries there. I guarantee you will find at least one new blog to follow!
That's http://yeahwrite.me/54-open/ or
http://yeahwrite.me/54-voting/ if you're reading this Thursday.