May 29, 2014
That last catfish outing sealed the deal. You parked your car near the dam and trudged down 482 concrete steps to the river below, toting three rods and reels, a bucket of shad guts, two pints of stinkbait, 18 pounds of sinkers, a baloney sandwich, and a Mountain Dew. Then you walked three-quarters of a mile down the bank to your honey hole, losing one tennis shoe to the sucking mud in the process. After setting out your lines, you retreated to the bushes to answer Nature's call and almost stepped on a copperhead. By noon, the temperature had risen to 102°F, your shad guts had run out, your Dew had been drained, flies covered your stinkbait, and a sudden rush of muddy water through the turbines had trashed your hole. So you staggered back up all those steps to your truck, the hot concrete searing your one bare foot like a flank steak on a hibachi.
"This is fishing?" you pant upon reaching the top. "I'm all done totin' gear and dodgin' copperheads and walkin' up 'n down them steps. I'm gettin' me a boat!"
But what kind of boat? Today's catman has more options than ever, in both fiberglass and aluminum. What follows is a review of the various catfishing boats available to fishermen. Use this information to acquaint yourself with what's out there — then do more research online, visit your local marine dealer for a closer look, and take a test drive. Soon you'll be catfishin' in style.
These low-slung fiberglass and aluminum boats are designed primarily for bass fishing on big inland lakes, but they're commonly used for other species, as well. Around 60 percent of a bass boat's weight is in the rear third of the boat, including the outboard motor, fuel tank, batteries, and livewell. This fact, combined with its high-performance pad bottom (found on most fiberglass and some aluminum bass rigs), allows the nose of the boat to lift under power for maximum speed, even when carrying a considerable payload of persons and gear.
PROS: Highly efficient hull design allows maximum drag reduction for excellent speed and handling — many 20-foot bass boats run 70+mph when equipped with 200 hp or larger outboards. Excellent storage — most have two rod boxes and multiple compartments for tackle. Large, elevated front and rear decks. Low sides mean less wind resistance and greater ease of landing big fish. Handles well with a bow-mounted trolling motor.
CONS: Little floor space. May be hard to mount rod-holders. There's a livewell, but no baitwell. Carpeted interior is easily trashed and hard to clean. Hulking outboards are overkill for catfishing.
Available in both aluminum and fiberglass, bay boats were originally designed to operate in coastal bays and tidal rivers, but have found favor with many freshwater anglers, particularly catfish and striper fishermen. They have a 12- to 15-degree deadrise and a sharp entry, a good combination for crossing big, rough waters at moderate speeds. Bay boats aren't designed for maximum bow lift but run fairly level on their keel. Most have a center console and can be driven standing up for enhanced operator visibility. Many have an elevated front deck; some have rear decks.
PROS: Lots of interior room. Great for baitfishing — many come with a rounded, aerated bait tank capable of keeping delicate baitfish like shad and herring in good shape. Most have no carpet. Rods mount in clips on the console or sides, making them more easily accessible than when stashed in storage boxes. Some are available with a tunnel hull for shallow running.
CONS: Relatively little dry storage. Bay boats with tunnel hulls ride rough in choppy water.
These sturdy rigs, available in both aluminum and fiberglass, have traditionally been most popular among walleye anglers in northern states. But they're gaining popularity among southern catmen, as well, particularly those who frequent big, rough reservoirs. Their forte is trolling and drifting versus running fast. This design typically has a 12- to 18-degree deadrise at the transom and a sharp entry at the bow, good for slicing through waves. The interior may be open, or have casting decks with ample storage for rods and gear.
PROS: High sides and deep interior offer security in rough water. Lots of interior storage and elbow room. Compared to a bass boat, floats relatively level at rest, allowing it to operate in surprisingly shallow water. Many deep vees come with both an aerated livewell and a livebait well built-in. Flat gunwales provide easy mounting of rod-holders. Less expensive models are available without carpet, facilitating easy cleanup when fishing with messy baits.
CONS: Slab-sided aluminum deep vees tend to get blown around in the wind, which is less of a problem on molded fiberglass models. High sides and low decks also make it harder to land big fish.
Fish & Skis
A combination bass and ski boat, these are usually made of fiberglass. Most feature elevated front and rear casting decks, aerated livewell, roomy cockpit with walk-through windshield, twin consoles, two bucket seats, rear seats that convert to pedestal fishing seats, and a floor storage locker. Many come with fold-up top and built-in stereo.
PROS: Love that windshield and top in cold, rainy weather. Can be used for family ski outings if desired. Excellent performance and smooth ride. Killer sound system.
CONS: Marginal rod and tackle storage. Fancy interior is destined to be destroyed by catfishing.
If you need to cross skinny water to get to those monster cats, a jet-powered rig is your cup of tea. These flat-bottomed aluminum boats have either an outboard modified with a jet drive, or an inboard jet engine (the outboard is lighter and less expensive). Although most popular with salmon anglers in the Pacific Northwest, jets are finding favor with river and tailrace catfishermen nationwide. A properly set-up jet rig can run in 6 inches of water or less. These are usually do-it-yourself craft. Start with a basic aluminum jon, modified vee, or tunnel hull boat with a higher'‘than'‘normal transom, which allows the jet outboard to be positioned so its water intake is almost dead-level with the bottom of the boat. Console, batteries, remote bait tanks, fuel tank, and other heavy objects should be placed toward the bow rather than the stern, so the boat floats level at rest.
PROS: Unbeatable for shallow rivers and tailraces. No prop to ding up or lower unit to bust.
CONS: Jet outboards cost more than prop outboards of equivalent horsepower. Also, slapping a jet pump on an outboard reduces its efficiency by around 30 percent, meaning slow running speeds and poor fuel economy. Jet-equipped boats are hard to maneuver at slow speeds, especially when backing up. Leaves and debris can get sucked into the pump's intake, causing an immediate loss of thrust and possible engine damage.
These classic catfishing craft are the most basic of all fishing boats. They're made of riveted or welded aluminum and can range from 10 to over 20 feet long. Almost zero deadrise means they'll float extremely shallow (and deliver a pounding in rough water). Nothing but wide-open spaces inside — most have bench seats and no console.
PROS: Inexpensive. Light and extremely portable — you can haul a jon boat in a pickup truck's bed or on top of your car. Runs very shallow. Can be modified in endless ways to fit your fishing style. The low sides don't catch a lot of wind and allow for easy landing of big fish. Plenty of floor space for gear. No carpet.
CONS: Pounding ride in rough water. Uncomfortable to fish from — you sit on a metal bench. Little or no storage. Lacks amenities like built-in electronics, livewell, or baitwell.
True "mod vees" are racing boats with a combination deep vee/tunnel bottom, but the term is commonly used to describe an aluminum fishing boat with a low (around 7-degree) deadrise and with a moderately sharp point of entry. This design combines the excellent stability and shallow draft of the jon boat with some wave-slicing capability for a softer ride. Many modified vees have an elevated front deck, abbreviated rear deck, and small aerated livewell.
PROS: Extra-thick hulls (usually .100- to .125-gauge aluminum) make these boats great for shallow, stumpy catfish venues. Plenty of interior room — you can easily place a remote bait tank on the floor. Easy to mount rod holders; some models have built-in tracks in the gunwales for these and other accessories. Low sides. No carpet. Less expensive than many other boat styles.
CONS: Rides better than a jon boat in rough water, but not much. Minimal storage space means a cluttered interior when fishing.
Basically a floating living room, a pontoon boat is a super-comfortable craft that can handle a number of catfishing applications, including open-water drifting and bottom fishing. The spacious interior features lounge seating, snack table, stereo system and wraparound rails that keep active children corralled. Angler-friendly models are available with pedestal seats, trolling motor, livewell, and rod storage.
PROS: Roomiest and most comfortable of all fishing craft. Great for taking kids fishing. Relatively inexpensive compared to more specialized fishing boats. Ideal for laid-back catfishin'.
CONS: Barge-like proportions make it harder to trailer, launch, and load. Difficult to maneuver in tight spaces, and has less response to trolling motor power compared to other boat types. Slow under power. Difficult to handle in river current. Gets blown around on windy days.
Baked Catfish with Jalapeno, Tomato & Garlic, Guacamole, and Refried Black Beans
A sure winner with catfish, this recipe also performs well with walleye, pike, bass, and large crappies. For less fire, substitute sweet peppers for the jalapenos.
-----Two 6- to 8-ounce fillets-----
- 1 Roma tomato, diced
- 1/4 onion, minced
- 2 jalapeno chilies, cut into rounds
- 2 tbsp. cilantro, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed
- 1 tbsp. tequila (optional)
'¢ Combine all ingredients except catfish. Place catfish on a lightly greased baking sheet and spoon the tomato chili mixture over each catfish. Bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes or until the flesh is opaque and flaky. Serve with black beans and guacamole.
- 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed
- juice of lime
- 1 small tomato, finely minced
- 1/2 onion, finely minced
- few drops olive oil
- a pinch each of salt and pepper
'¢ Mash all of the ingredients together. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
-----Refried Black Beans-----
- 2 c. or one can cooked black beans
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 1 tbsp. bacon fat or olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground chili powder
- salt (about a tsp.)
'¢ Heat the olive oil or bacon fat in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic; cook until translucent over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and cook, mashing the beans against the skillet with a fork or spatula so they become sort of mushy, but most of the liquid is cooked out. Add water if they seem dry. Add the seasonings and taste.
Catfish & Potato Stew With Herbed Biscuits
Chef Lucia Watson promises this is an easy one, although it takes a little time. You can also substitute any nice white-fleshed fish such as walleye, pike, or bass.
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 strips bacon, cut small
- 1 med. onion, med. dice
- 2 stalks celery with leaves, med. dice
- 2 carrots, med. dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 med. potatoes, med. dice
- 1 1â„2 tsp. dry or 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 2 c. milk
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- dash Tabasco
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. walleye cut into 1-inch pieces
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
'¢ Place the butter and bacon in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the bacon starts to brown.
'¢ Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, and potatoes and cook covered, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.
'¢ Add the flour and cook 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, milk, cream, wine, Tabasco, salt and pepper.
'¢ Cook the stew uncovered, stirring often for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
'¢ Toss the walleye with the lemon and parsley and gently stir into the stew. Cook another 10 to 12 minutes, stirring gently until the walleye is tender. Serve at once in big bowls with herb biscuits.
- 2 c. flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. mixed fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, chives, dill)
- 2 c. heavy cream
'¢ Preheat oven to 350°F.
'¢ Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, herbs, and sugar in a mixing bowl.
'¢ With mixer on low (or by hand), slowly add the cream and mix only until just combined.
'¢ Drop by tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes (depending on biscuit size) or until golden and tender. Serve at once.
Catfish With Chili Cornmeal Crust & Sweet-pepper, Corn and Bacon Relish
In-Fisherman friend Chef Lucia Watson reports this is a popular recipe at Lucia's, sometimes served around the opening of walleye season. While the eatery does the dish with walleye then, it makes a great catfish recipe, too. Watson notes the sweet pepper, corn, and bacon relish is a classic with any fried fish, particularly during summer, when corn and peppers are fresh and super-sweet. Horseradish Sour Cream Sauce is another good choice.
- 2 fillets, about 8 oz. each, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
- 1/2 c. cornmeal
- 1/2 c. flour
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil or bacon fat or an inch of oil in a deeper
pan for deep frying
'¢ Combine cornmeal, flour, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Dip each fillet in lemon juice then the cornmeal mixture, carefully dusting each side of the fillets.
'¢ Heat the fat in a heavy-bottomed skillet until it just starts to smoke. Put the fillets in the fat and cook about 5 minutes until golden brown.
'¢ Turn fillets and continue to cook about 5 minutes on the other side. If deep frying, cook the fillets without turning, about 7 to 8 minutes or until golden brown.
'¢ Remove fish to plate and garnish with the warm sweet relish.
-----Sweet Pepper, Corn & Bacon Relish-----
- 1/2 each green, red, and yellow pepper, seeded and diced, about 2 c. total
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 3 slices bacon, finely diced
- 2 ears corn (slice kernels off cobs), about 2 c.
- 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp. fresh chives
'¢ Place bacon in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook until the fat starts to render and the bacon gets crispy.
'¢ Immediately add peppers, onion and corn. Cook over high heat stirring constantly, until the veggies are still crispy but warmed through.
'¢ Add herbs and taste for final seasoning.
-----Horseradish Sour Cream Sauce-----
- 1 c. sour cream
- 2 heaping tbsp. prepared horseradish
-juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper
'¢ Mix all ingredients.
Serves one or two.
Chili Dusted Catfish
Rave reviews are a cinch with this easy recipe from Chef Lucia Watson, who notes that a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with chili or paprika, plus a little parsley goes along well with this combination of flavors.
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- 1/4 c. buttermilk (or whole milk)
- 1 egg
- pinch sugar
- 1/2 c. dry bread crumbs
- 2 catfish fillets
'¢ Preheat oven to 400°F.
'¢ Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
'¢ Mix together the spices.
'¢ In a shallow bowl, beat together the buttermilk, eggs, and sugar.
'¢ One at a time, dip each fillet in the spice mixture, then the buttermilk mixture, and then the bread crumbs. Place each fillet on the prepared cookie sheet.
'¢ Bake the fish until cooked through, about 12 to 14 minutes. Serve with the cumin rice.
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. dry oregano
- 1 c. long grain rice
- 2 c. chicken stock or water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 c. minced scallion
- 1 tsp. additional butter
'¢ In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the butter until melted. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and rice. Cook, stirring about 3 minutes. Add the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook covered for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
'¢ Turn off the rice and allow to sit, covered, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the additional butter and scallions and fluff with a fork.
Blackened Catfish with Maque Choux
A modification of a redfish recipe with Cajun succotash, this one won't take all day in the kitchen, but is sure to raise eyebrows at the table. Goes well with white rice, which is a nice complement to the spicy catfish.
- 4 catfish fillets
- 1/2 c. melted butter
- 1/2 c. Cajun seasoning
- 1 tsp. celery seed
- 2 tbsp. sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. dried thyme
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 small onion, chopped, about 1 c.
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 4 c. corn kernels
- 1 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- Salt and Tabasco sauce to taste
'¢ To make the maque choux, heat butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add the onion. Sauté the onion for 1 minute, then add the green pepper.
'¢ Sprinkle with salt and sauté 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add corn kernels and cook another 10 minutes. Turn off heat and cover while preparing fish.
'¢ Melt the butter and pour the Cajun spices into a shallow dish.
'¢ Dip fish fillets in melted butter, then dredge in Cajun spices.
'¢ Cook fillets 2-3 minutes per side in a hot cast-iron frying pan.
'¢ When you flip the fillets, add tomatoes and Tabasco to the maque choux.
Crab Stuffed Catfish
This seafood special is simple to fix with 15 minutes prep and less than half an hour cooking time.
- Six 6-ounce catfish fillets (about 6 ounces each)
- Two 6-ounce cans lump crabmeat, drained and flaked
- 1 c. Italian-flavored bread crumbs
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 4 tbsp. (½ stick) butter, melted divided
- ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ tsp. black pepper, divided
-¼ tsp. paprika
'¢ Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
'¢ In medium bowl, combine crabmeat, bread crumbs, celery, eggs, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 tsp. pepper; mix well.
'¢ Place catfish fillets on a work surface and season with the remaining 1/2 tsp. pepper. Spread the crabmeat stuffing equally down the center of each fillet, roll up, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with paprika.
'¢ Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately.
Stir Fry Catfish
Another catfish delight courtesy of Chef Lucia Watson, this recipe is perfect thanks to the cat clan's firm, tasty flesh. It also works with burbot, walleyes, bass, pike, and perch.
- 1 lb. catfish fillets cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 med. red, yellow, and green peppers cut into julienne strips
- 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
- 2 scallions, coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot, julienne
- 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, steamed & chopped
toasted sesame seeds for garnish
'¢ Blend the sesame oil and soy sauce and set aside.
'¢ Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet until very hot. Add the fish, peppers, carrots, ginger, garlic, and scallions. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring gently.
'¢ Pour the sesame-soy mixture over and cook one more minute. Turn off heat and gently stir in cilantro.
'¢ Serve with rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serves two or three.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers this delightful and easy-to-fix catfish dish.
- 2 catfish fillets (approximately 1 lb.) diced
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/3 c. onion, chopped very fine
- 1/3 c. green pepper, chopped very fine
- ¾ c. Bisquick or other pancake mix
- Salt and pepper
- Oil for frying**
'¢ In large bowl, mix together fish, onion, and green pepper, adding desired amounts of salt and pepper. Mix whisked egg and lemon juice to the fish mixture.
'¢ Add Bisquick.
'¢ Form into patties and fry in heated oil.
Makes 12 two-inch catfish cakes.
**Patties can also be broiled on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Flip once so patties can brown on both sides. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 400°F after broiling.
Extra-virgin olive oil replaces much of the butter flavoring typically found in amandine sauces for pan-fried catfish, giving this rendition a delicate taste, with just a third of the calories, fat, and sodium of traditional versions.
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1/4 c. sliced almonds
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 c. low-fat milk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 lb. catfish, cut into 4 portions
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
'¢ Heat 1 tbsp. oil and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add almonds and garlic, and cook until both begin to brown, 1-3 minutes. Set aside.
'¢ Combine milk and egg in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, combine flour, salt, and cayenne. Dip fish in the milk mixture, then in the flour mixture; shake off excess flour.
'¢ Heat remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add fish and cook until lightly browned and opaque in center, 4 to 6 minutes per side.
'¢ Return almond-garlic sauce to the stove over medium heat. Add lemon juice and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour sauce over fish and sprinkle with parsley.
A Southwestern treat from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, this fajita recipe is guaranteed to please the pickiest of palates.
- 2 lb. catfish fillets
- 1 c. lime juice (5 or 6 limes) 3 cups mesquite or hickory wood chips
- 1 large onion, sliced and warmed
- 1 large sweet red or green pepper, cut into strips 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1â„2 tsp. salt
- 1â„4 tsp. pepper
- 8 flour or corn tortillas, separated into rings Salsa, sour cream, guacamole
and lime wedges
'¢ Place catfish in a large plastic bag. Pour lime juice over fish. Seal bag and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour (do not marinate longer; acid in the lime juice will 'œcook' the fish).
'¢ Soak wood chips in enough water to cover for 30-60 minutes. Drain wood chips. In a covered grill, test coals for medium-hot heat. Sprinkle wood chips over preheated coals. Lightly brush grill rack with cooking oil.
'¢ Place catfish on grill rack. Cover and grill directly over medium-hot coals about 5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily.
'¢ Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook onion, red or green pepper, and garlic in butter or margarine until just tender. Stir in salt and pepper.
'¢ Cut grilled catfish into chunks. Toss with onion mixture. Fill tortillas with catfish mixture.
'¢ Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and lime wedges.