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This time of year anglers are fishing for freshwater catfish. If you are from the South, you love channel cats. The catfish anglers I caught up with told me, “You can tell a Southerner by their love of catfish and hush puppies. You are a Northerner if you say, I’ve never eaten that.”
July is a great catfish catching month. With the freshwaters of the upper parts of the Alafia and Little Manatee rivers swarming with cats. Freshwater cats can grow up to 20 pounds. Some freshwater anglers tell me that they are “the snook of freshwater fishing.”
Many anglers travel to various lakes around the state for their catfish, but local boys tell me why travel, they make their catches by going up the river.
After a heavy rain, the water is full of cats. They love currents or swift waters.
Catfish will take any kind of bait. If you think you can’t fish without a live worm or shrimp, you’re wrong. Take hot dogs along for lunch and put a piece of it on your hook. Presto! You have a catfish. Take chicken along, bait your hook with a piece of chicken and a catfish will grab it. Or take some live worms with you, they will take them too.
If you can remember back to the first time you went fishing it was probably a catfish you caught using a stick pole and a string or a small fishing pole.
Catfish is the South’s most celebrated fish. They go from the pond to the plate. So be you a die-hard traditionalist or an adventurer — the catfish are abundant.
I have always skinned catfish before making fillets. Some anglers will tell me they don’t. I do not know if there is something on the market for skinning fish. You can’t scale a catfish as they do not have scales. Many fry catfish, if they are large enough they can be cooked whole, either broiled or baked. I have been told you never serve catfish without hush puppies. Some make hush puppies with yellow cornmeal, others use white cornmeal. Modern cooks use biscuits, which the real Southern would refuse to eat. A lot of people add chopped onions and a bit of garlic to their hush puppies.
Inevitably someone will ask me how hush puppies got their name. The story goes that after the Civil War when they were cooking fish, they would throw scraps of batter from the skillets to the barking dogs and yell “hush puppies.” Thus a Southern tradition was born.
Try green onion-tomato hush puppies.
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Then add 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup milk, add chopped tomatoes and green onions.
Pour 2 inches oil in pan and heat to 375 degrees. Drop mixture in hot oil a teaspoon at a time and cook about 2 minutes on each side. This should yield 3-1/2 dozens hush puppies.
With all the saltwater around, anglers should get plenty of catches this week.
Flounder have been popular and have graced many dinner tables. They were caught by free floating bait on in-going and out-going tides.
Sheepshead have not dodged the anglers this week. Some who have mastered this bony mouth fish, set hook in some whoppers this week.
Redfish have ruled the catches at Simmons park. The canals have proven to be a redfish haven.
Those fishing at the Skyway fishing pier have reported many different catches of drum, trout, catch and release snook, redfish, with some anglers pulling in small hammerhead sharks.
Tarpon are still prowling in the bay channels. Most tarpon are jumping in the air at night and giving some anglers a chase without a catch.
The weather has been warm or most say “hot,” but this has kept the cobia in the waterways. Few if any have gone traveling to other waterways.
Triple tails are popping up along the side of boats, playing tag with some anglers. “Have they caught any?” No catches were reported to me.
The big news is, “More launching boat pads are on the drawing board for Simmons Park.” They are needed since many public launches have been sold and boaters have lost their routes to the bay waters.
Summer is here! Have fun, use sun screen and boat safely.
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