Times catfish article spawns fish war

Times catfish article spawns fish war by Bob Karolevitz I read in the paper that somebody caught a 60-pound, 8-ounce flathead catfish recently.

That�s 60 pounds, 2 ounces more than the fish I usually catch in the same stretch of river where the big shovelface came from.

What have I done wrong?

Actually I�ve been at it for something like 70 odd years now, starting when I used to pedal my bicycle the three miles out to that languid stream in order to dangle a hook. The fish I caught then � too small by any standard � were shriveled mummies in my bike basket before I got them home.

No wonder my sainted mother never cooked them!

Years ago I wrote an article for The Seattle Times called �I�ll Take Catfishin�� in which I told of my interest in those ugly bottom-feeders. You should have heard those Washingtonian purists scream!

That piscatorial pronouncement promptly got me ridden out of the Evergreen State on a tackle box. I came home, then, to South Dakota where those chin-whiskered denizens of the deep are not sneered at.

In that Times piece I explained how catfishin� was a good way to relax � no slippery rocks to climb over, no rassling with cantankerous outboard motors, no tide tables to study, no leaky boots to patch, no fancy flies to buy, no rain in the face. But it didn�t satisfy my Seattle ex-friends who proceeded to cross me off their Christmas lists.

They don�t know what it�s like to sit in a cool spot, to listen to the mourning doves call and to enjoy each nibble. We might catch something now and then, too, but who cares?

In that article I also described the cleaning process and how not to get gashed by one of those needle-sharp spines which catfish are noted for. Again the Washington anglers curled their lips and gasped: �You mean you really EAT those things?�

I could tell forthwith that they never had one, fried golden brown with home-grown tomatoes and sweet corn.

I tried my best to convince them that catfish were just as good as Chinook salmon any time � but in the end I lost the battle. I came back to South Dakota where a man can sit on the bank, wet a worm and not be ridiculed.

Of course, Phyllis doesn�t want me dragging home a 60-pounder. She says (facetiously) that she doesn�t have a pan that large. Size or not, I don�t want any anti-catfish remarks from her or anybody else, thank you.

The Washingtonians tried hard to turn me against one of nature�s most unattractive creatures � but I prevailed.

Come to think of it, that Seattle Times article may have started a �fish war� which still goes on today. Now, however, there are other species involved. There are bass-lovers, walleye-lovers, crappy-lovers and even a few carp-fanciers. Like religion and politics, I doubt if the �choosing of sides� will ever end.

But now that I�ve stirred up a fine kettle of fish, I should just go out behind the chicken coop, dig a few worms and mosey down to the river to see what�s biting.

I might just catch one of those ugly specimens I wrote about � but I hope it�s not a 60-pounder.

� 2004 Robert F. Karolevitz

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