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Patterning River Flathead Catfish

Patterning River Flathead Catfish
Dennis Steele with a rock-pattern flathead. Rock areas provide cover and current edges for flatheads.

Doug-Stange-Flathead-Catfish-Lead-In-FishermanLike those rare catmen with the gift, ­Dennis Steele owns that primal feel for the river. While scouting a new stretch of water, you see him narrow his eyes, idle down, and just know about a certain little nook up ahead. Could be the slight surface swirl he's certain conceals a wood snag, the subtle seam formed between opposing currents, or something more instinctive, like selecting the jackpot hole among three similar spots.

As we geared up for a recent flathead trip to a moderately sized river in the Upper Midwest, Steele and I poured over a well-weathered river map. "We've got three stretches to choose from," Steele says. "One with seemingly endless bend holes, another with several well-spaced bends, and a third with just a couple major river bends separated by many miles.

"With just one night to fish, I like this one," he says, poking at the second stretch on the map. "Just the right amount of key habitat. There's only so much biomass in a given section of river, and I don't think that a stretch with endless holes necessarily supports more flatheads. Plus, fewer hiding places means it's easier for us to target the right ones. Still, it's nice to have more than a couple options in a five-mile stretch," he adds, referring to the third section that lacks potential spots.

"If I know you, we'll be shooting all three five-mile stretches tonight," I say, with Steele's maniacal ­jet-boating tendencies in mind. Boulders, downed trees, sandbars matter not, hull dents notwithstanding. Indeed, heaven help those innocent newcomers aboard his River Pro jet boat. Like a first-time skydiver, you've no idea what you're in for; but once you've jumped, options suddenly shrink to terror and survival.

"I kind of like your 15-mile idea," Steele says. "The map only tells us so much. The best way to judge a stretch is to see it firsthand."

"Sort of tough to judge anything that passes in a blur," I jest. "Still, much as I enjoy jumping sandbars, let's pretend we're good boys tonight. Say we've narrowed it down to five key spots on the second stretch. Do we attempt to fish several spots in one night, or do we roll the dice on one or two potential Meccas?"

"Always good to fish several spots during the course of the night," Steele says. Let's rate each spot as we see it, then fish them according to key times. We'll probably spend a good hour on the best spot, beginning as the sky turns dark after sunset. Then once we get the active fish to pop or fail to get bit, we'll start moving around, fishing the alternative holes and giving them anywhere from half an hour to an hour, depending on the type and complexity of their structure. Finally, we should save the second-best area for at least the last hour before sunup."

As we near the end of our 5-mile run, I say: "What do you think of those last two spots?" One is a deeply sweeping 13-foot hole on an outside river bend with almost no wood or other cover; the other is a gnarly wood snag lying over just 6 feet of water at the end of a long shallow run. "Say we're looking at just these two spots. Which one gets fished?"

Dennis Steele with a rock-pattern flathead. Rock areas provide cover and current edges for flatheads.

"I don't think flatheads necessarily need cover when feeding," he says. "Rather, they utilize current relative to how it plays against solid objects. Did you notice how, on the deep river bend, current flowed straight into the bank at a right angle and then split in two directions? I think we ought to try this spot, even without any wood. Still, if the current were to simply follow the bank as it turned, I'd pass it by."

"I look at that second area — the shallow snag you mentioned — the same way," he continues. "Since the snag lies in the main current, creating a push at the front as well as short channels or chutes along its sides, it's certainly worth fishing. But it'd be especially good if the snag hung on a sharp break, point, or cut, rather than a gradual slope at the tail of that hole. The chutes along each side create current features that flatheads use to ambush prey. It's a decent spot but not a top option."

Steele's sharply attuned to current and how flatheads move relative to it, which tells him where to best place baits in a given spot. He believes current is the key to patterning flatheads on any river.


This gets me thinking. Current just doesn't figure prominently enough in the process most anglers use to pattern flatheads. Most are considering cover, not current. Which makes me wonder about another spot we passed by earlier. "Remember that 4-foot run flowing over all that broken rock — the one that poured into the 10-foot deep pool encased in big granite shelves and slides? What do you think?"

"That spot interests me, too," he says. "I think flatheads are there, for sure. Still, as with any spot, current dictates where cats feed here. In rising water like we're seeing today, I'd fish the big boiling eddy along the front of the hole. Rising water kicks up baitfish, which often moves them to the head of the hole. The broken rock in the upstream run could hold crayfish, too, which both flatheads and baitfish eat. When I'm fishing a rock spot, it's not necessarily the rock itself I'm fishing — it's the current features that attract baitfish."

Knowing Steele's fondness for rock spots (he's pulled several 50€‘pound€‘class fish from rock), I press the point a bit further. "What is it about rock that you like so much for flatheads? I mean, lots of anglers pass these spots by in favor of the next big woody snag."

"Tell you a story," Steele says. "One year in a creek where I collect bait, I found a 24-pound flathead isolated within two pools. It probably swam up the creek in higher water, and when the water receded, got stranded. I found the old fella in late May, his dorsal fin high and dry. Finally, by late October I decided to move the fish back to the river before the creek iced up.

"In one pool, boulders lined the top and the bank along one side," he says. "In the other pool there was a large blowdown sitting over the outside bend. Both pools were about 31„2 feet deep. Three-fourths of the time I found the fish in the pool with the boulders, his head tucked right up against the granite at the head of the hole, even in broad daylight. A few other times I found him tucked way up underneath the blowdown like any catman would expect.

"As winter passed that year, I thought a lot about that fish and its fondness for rocks. Next season I started experimenting with rocky areas in the river and found lots of cats there. Ever since then, most of my largest flatheads each season have come from rock."

"So you're saying rock is better than wood?" I ask.

"Well, not necessarily," he says. "But I do believe it's easier to wrestle catfish out of a rocky area than a woody area, particularly big flatheads. Rocks provide both cover and the current edges flatheads use to catch prey. Large granite or sandstone ledges, or extensive riprap areas in the river, provide major slackwater areas used by baitfish. Rock provides cover for cats during the day, too. I just think that flatheads use the deep woody snags more for resting than feeding. They do, however, move from the woodcover at night and roam, looking for food. Which reminds me, next spot's waiting." At this point, I'm convinced. Joyride behind us, tonight we'll put a certain rock spot at the top of our list.

We anchor and place our baits at the front side of a sandstone formation, at the tail of a deep riverbend where rock rises abruptly toward the surface, creating a "push" effect. Current moves rapidly over the rock, slackening toward the base of the formation. "See how this big sandstone slab sort of sucks water out of the deep upstream bend?" Steele asks. "Bet you there's baitfish holding at the bottom of the break, and flatheads move out of the hole from the back side of the rock here to feed on fish holding along the sandstone face."

Within ten minutes, I lip Steele's first flathead, a robust 20-pounder. As always, there's a reason he's scored first, which he soon explains. "I'm a big believer that bait placement is key to getting on fish, and you just can't always get your baits set properly from shore," he says. "In places like this, the best spot to place your bait is along the face of the rock, or transition from rock to softer substrate. Here, the current starts to turn across the face of the rock — a kind of inside bend of the current edge.

"The spot changes with different water levels, but the key is the current edge created by the rock formation," he explains. "In any case, it's best to anchor directly upstream from the area you're fishing, or upstream and opposite the direction you think fish run. This does two things: Your bait can't be swept out of your target area, and it prevents a bow from forming in your line when setting the hook. If the wind picks up or current changes slightly while fishing that spot, I reposition the boat until I get it right."

Maps help narrow the search for potentially good spots, but first-hand looks seal the deal.

The appetites of the flatheads in our spot don't give me too much time to ponder, for within an hour and a half we've had five solid takes and four big scores, including a hulking 45. "The best thing about this spot is that there's nothing for catfish to snag you on. The rock is mostly smooth, and there's no wood for them to run into."

While this spot has indeed been a gem, it isn't without challenges. The tricky thing here is that the fish aren't whacking the bait and making a classic run. They're moving upstream toward the boat, which actually creates slack in the line, rather than ­zinging line off a clicker. Dennis detects the pattern immediately. "Notice how these fish are taking the bait? The only giveaway is a sharp tap on the rod tip, followed by a slight load on the rod as they drag the sinker slowly upstream. If we weren't tuned into this behavior, we might miss most of these fish," he adds.

Hours and several flatheads later, dawn approaching, we jet downstream to our second-best spot. It's a large woodpile stacked against a shoreline protrusion on the downstream side of a backwash area. With the rising water, the backwash is attracting baitfish — a key location, particularly early in summer. Action commences nearly immediately, baits thumping, blood pumping, which launches my thoughts toward a million magical possibilities.

A Flathead Treasure Map

When faced with a river you've never fished, or a new section of a familiar river, a bit of map reading can lead you to the best bets for river flathead catfish. While you certainly can't get the goods on each spot without actually seeing it, maps do tell you quite a bit about what to expect, once you actually arrive.

Land contours, rapids and hazards, mile markers, accesses, towns and other features on a good map all provide clues. Land contours give you an idea of the river's depth. Rapids betray rock habitat. Mile markers help you accurately match potential map spots to real-world spots. Illustrated access and town sites help you pick remote stretches not so often pressured by other anglers.

During Steele and Schmidt's flathead trip, the three 5-mile stretches of river they consider represent a dilemma many catmen face: Lots of potential catfish water but only so much time to fish. On most small to medium-sized flathead rivers, boating and surveying 20 miles a day just isn't feasible. That's why, at the beginning of the trip, Steele simply takes a few glances at each mapped stretch.

He looks first at riverbends. While bends don't tell the whole story, they do tend to house deeper water than the adjoining straight stretches; the sharper switches gather wood that builds into major snags flatheads haunt. Outside bends are perpetually exposed to strong wash-away currents which, over years, uncover underlying granite and sandstone ledge rock, another flathead hangout. Still, just because bends offer potentially favorable habitat doesn't mean that a greater abundance of bends on a map means better flathead fishing.

Stretch-1-In-FishermanStretch One — A nearly endless series of riverbends and switches, Steele believes, isn't your best option. Too many holes may spread the available cats too thin across a long stretch of water. Only so many cats in any stretch, and only so much food, as well. Too much habitat makes finding cats difficult for rod€‘and€‘reel anglers.

Stretch-2-In-FishermanStretch Two — This section contains a few major riverbends, in addition to several less prominent sweeps. In the less-than-perfect reality of flathead rivers, this section offers the optimum number of options for one day's fishing. An on-the-water examination reveals one prime spot and a second nearly choice hole. Spread between the two, several minor bend holes provide secondary fishing targets — places to hit for a quick 30 to 60 minutes before moving on.

Stretch-3-In-FishermanStretch Three — This reach is composed of several long, mostly straight sections of river, likely shallow runs that gather few flatheads. While a couple of well-spaced bends exist here, the boys aren't so willing to gamble a full day's fishing on the potential of just a few spots, as they never see the stretch firsthand. This speaks directly to the limitation of river maps — they're only helpful as a means of narrowing the search and rarely so detailed as to describe specific spots.

But river maps remain great tools for all catmen, proving to be timesavers when assessing several sections of new water, in particular. And they're a wise first step in the process of outlining a potent flathead pattern.

Steele's Tackle and Bait Solutions

Steeles-Tackle-and-Bait-Solutions-In-FishermanReels: "I fish lot of bait-feeder spinning reels so I won't have to work out the backlashes caused by inexperienced clients using baitcasters," Steele says. "Reels like the Shimano Baitrunner or Pflueger Contender work great. The freespool feature on bait-feeders offers much less resistance than the clicker on many casting reels, which can be quite tight. Of course, spinning tackle works for me because many of the areas I fish allow you to fight cats without worrying about tangling in cover. But if I'm near wood, I'm always using heavy-duty casting tackle for its cranking power."

Rods: Steele uses 9-foot-long rods, such as Shakespeare Ugly Stiks or Berkley Glowstiks, matched with spinning reels for casting distance and light bite detection. He says: "Even a large flathead sometimes takes a bait very subtly and may not run at all. On the other hand, in compact, combat-style spots I prefer a short, stout rod and a beefy baitcaster."

Line: "My line is nearly always 65- to 80-pound PowerPro or Spiderwire Stealth. I prefer the superlines with some body and stiffness for ease of use." Superlines also cut current well, minimizing drag.

Hooks: Steele mostly uses 7/0 to 8/0 Kahle or wide-gap hooks, such as an Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp L142. "I also like larger octopus style hooks in 8/0 to 10/0, depending on bait size," he says. "When I'm sure that the fish turn and run, I opt for circle hooks like the Gamakatsu In-Line Circle or Daiichi Circle Chunk Light. Hook baits lightly so that when you set the hook, the bait pops free, allowing the hook to do its job."

Sinkers: "Most of the time I use flat No-Roll sinkers run through the line to a barrel swivel, then the leader," Steele says.

Rigging: "Leader length is usually short — no more than 12 inches. To give the bait extra freedom, I pay out more line. The short leader makes casting the rig easier," he says. "If my baits seem to be inactive, I may increase my leader length and attach a small float near the hook. The bait fights against the float, giving it more action. Also, when fishing snaggy or sharp rock, I often use a dropper line to a bell sinker and add a float near the hook. This protects your mainline from nicks caused by sharp rocks, and lets you break off the dropper line if the sinker gets stuck.

"Another option that works well in cover is letting the sinker slip right down to the hook. This places all the weight (bait and sinker) at one point at the end, making the rig easy to cast. When the sinker rests on bottom, you simply pay out line to give the bait room to move and struggle," he says.

Baits: "I try to bring enough baitfish to use a fresh one at each spot and to swap out fickle baits. ­Typically, this means a dozen for each person in the boat. Standard baits are lively bullheads or large creek chubs. If I can get live wild redhorse suckers — not pond-raised, but fresh, self-caught stuff — I'll throw those, too. I also bring along some fresh-cut sucker. It's always a good idea to carry a variety of baits and let the flatheads tell you what they want.

"When targeting just large fish, I use large baits. On some of the slower nights, though, smaller baits work better if I'm just looking to connect."

Triggering Tricks: "I like to play with the rods when the bite is slow or if the baits quit kicking," says Steele. "I shorten or lengthen the bait's leash and thump on the rod blank to keep the bait thrashing."

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.
Serves two.

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 1„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.
-----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.
Serves four.

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.
-----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.
Serves two.

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
-----Maque Choux-----
- 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.
Serves four.

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.
Serves six.

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.

Catfish Cakes

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.

Catfish Amandine

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.
Serves four.

Catfish Fajitas

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
- 1„2 tsp. salt
- 1„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 'cook ' 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.
Serves four.

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