Reading Small Rivers For Catfish

Reading Small Rivers For Catfish

Illustrations: Ron Finger

I say with confidence after spending a fair share of time on small rivers for catfish the season past, that all remains right with the world, the sky is not bound to fall, nor the earth soon bound to pass; and that rivers still run as they always have in my lifetime, with catfish holding just where they should be during each subsequent season. It makes me smile that it really is so terribly predictable. Indeed, even factoring in the unpredictability of weather, catfish will be this season just where they were the last — just where they have been for decades and even centuries previous.

This isn't so in an absolutely literal sense, because rivers are constantly changing. A sandbar right smack there today, may not be there next year, or even next week. Then again, at age 10, I caught my first five-pound channel cat from alongside a snaggy old tree lying just so in a river-bend hole in a little stream in northwest Iowa; and the surprise is that tree and bend hole remain today, some 37 years later. Such permanence is the exception on rivers, though, hardly the rule.

It is the definitive parts of a river that never change — the riffles, the holes, and the runs. God created, with only passing exception, all rivers equal in this regard. The rivers in Kentucky alongside which race horses roam have riffles, holes, and runs. Wyoming rivers, like the remaining free-flowing portions of the North Platte, where channel cats swim in near anonymity, have riffles, holes, and runs. Indiana, Arizona, Ontario, Brazil. Rivers there and the rivers you fish have riffles, holes, and runs.


An obvious riffle, hole, and run.


So predictable is this basic scenario that these river elements never even occur out of order. Riffles always lead to a hole, holes are always followed by a run, and runs always lead to another riffle. Yes, each individual element may shift location. Yes, they change shape and size. So too are these elements sometimes difficult to recognize. With time on the water, though, ah yes with pleasant time on the water, these elements become familiar friends who whisper secrets about the catfish that have no choice but to hold there.


Rivers wind because the earth spins, and as the earth spins, water moves predictably clockwise in the northern hemisphere. Pull the plug in your tub and the water swills clockwise down the drain. River water, though, bends clockwise and then rebounds like a billiard ball from bank to bank, causing curves in rivers that haven't been straightened by man. Even straightened rivers, though, will again do their best to begin to swivel-hip their way to the sea

Most rivers consist of a continuous series: riffle-hole-run, riffle-hole-run.

As rivers bend back and forth, they flow over various substrates. Rock and gravel areas do not easily wash away, and these humps in the landscape become riffles — shallow, narrow, hard-bottom spots that form natural dams above which water gathers and then constricts just enough to flow over the riffle and quickly downriver.


Riffles extend downriver so far as hard bottom lasts. Then, as the fast water gathers speed flowing downhill, it meets softer sand and soil, and this substrate is scoured away, creating a deeper, wider section of river. A hole forms. Holes are also called pools.

To add perspective at this point, know that riffles in small rivers may be no more than 20 feet across and might be followed by holes no more than three feet deep and ten feet long. On the other hand, riffles in larger rivers may be a quarter mile across. Such extensive riffles have a series of lesser holes running lengthwise below them, instead of one large hole. Cats tend to gather in the biggest, deepest holes.

Runs are river flats that begin at the tailout of a hole, where water that scoured the hole finally begins to slow before being pushed downriver. Here silt and other suspended debris sinks to the bottom, causing the run to shallow up. Eventually, the river flat may stretch for some distance with no significant depth change. The bottom usually is sand and silt with occasional rocks and patches of gravel, plus other debris. Flats usually form the most extensive areas on most rivers. Soon, the water flowing through a run will again build in front of another shallow, narrow, hard-bottom spot — another riffle. And so continues the series.


Riffle-Hole-Run-Illustration-In-FishermanYou may protest that this continuous series of elements just doesn't exist on your rivers. Not so. In many cases, though, rivers have been terribly altered. Before man entered the scene and dammed, dredged, and diked, even on the largest rivers, these features often were easy to determine. Of course, on larger rivers, flats often ran for miles, and reading the changing makeup of these flats often was an additional key to finding catfish. That's another story. Too, the lower portions of large rivers like the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Missouri are a more complicated story. Grant, too, that on altered rivers these features often seem to have lost their significance.

Even on most altered river sections, though, these features exist in principle if not in easily distinguishable fact. Wing dams may still be seen as riffles, even if they're manmade. And they are followed by holes, which are followed by flats, which extend until the next wing dam. On other altered rivers, a trip upriver or downriver with your sonar running shows subtle changes in bottom contour, depth, and substrate content that reveals the presence of riffles, holes, and runs, again in predictable order. Yes, yes, I again agree that sometimes it seems otherwise; but I have learned that it is my ability to interpret that is in error, not an anomaly in the makeup of a river.

A Great Abiding Freedom.

Good, Better, Best

The reason so many fisherman fish at bridge holes is that bridges offer easy access. The car is parked, a lawn chair set out, a forked stick or two pushed into the ground, rods propped up, the angler pops a cold soda and sits comfortably in the shade.

The first anglers to fish a bridge hole often catch fish, too, because bridges usually are built on and over riffle areas, so a hole naturally forms there and often attracts at least a few cats. By the time most anglers get there, however, the fish usually have been fried in someone elses pan. The rule on small rivers during most times of the year is that new fish won't move into a fished-out hole until the water rises.

The modern catman is a mobile sort. We have taught for many years that an angler must be prepared to survey at least a two-, five-, or ten-mile section of river, in order to determine the location of the best holes. Holes are the home of catfish. And bigger and deeper holes, and particularly holes with cover in the form of woody debris, usually attract many more cats. Remove these holes from easy access to other anglers and such holes are gold mines of great fishing, waiting to be discovered. Again, though, keep searching around the next bend in order to finally decide where the best holes are — and where to spend the most time.

Just Lookin' — Surveying For Major Snags.

Snags

Cover often serves as a feeding station or rest area for cats, attractive in part because cover is different from the rest of the river. Mainly, though, cover helps gather food and lets catfish lie comfortably near current, the supplier of food. But cover must be seen in the larger context of where it lies relative to our continuous series of riffles, holes, and runs. Some snags are better than others.

It's not just the size of a snag that determines if cats will be there. Put a great big tangle of trees in the middle of a long river flat, and it probably will attract only small cats. Put that tangle in a big deep hole, however, and some of the biggest fish in that section of the river might be there, both channel cats and flatheads.

Ultimately, the best snags lie in the best holes. As you might also expect, the location of the snag in a hole influences how cats use the snag. Cover in fast current near the top of a hole is primarily feeding territory. Cover in quiet water at the lower half of a hole is ­primarily holding or resting territory. A snag near the core of a hole is both a feeding and a resting area. The best snags, as you might expect, lie near or just downstream of the core of a hole, where moderate current hits the head of the snag, creates a current edge, as it flows around the snag, and a current break at the rear of the snag.

These Shots Are From One of Doug Stange's Last Trips With His Late Great Cat Buddy, Toad Smith. Those Were The Days.

Another way to look at this: Rivers are composed of a continuous series of riffles, holes, and runs, and the biggest, deepest holes in an area are the home of the catfish. A big hole is a big one-room home. In that home, the snag or the core of the hole usually is the bedroom, the top of the hole the kitchen. Catfish usually rest around or under the snag or in the core of the hole, but may occasionally snack there, especially when it's near the kitchen. Active cats move around the hole, checking areas that gather food.

Unfortunately, lots of cats don't always use snags that lie in a perfect position in a good-looking hole. Just as certain snags often gather more cats than other snags, certain river sections sometimes attract more cats during certain periods. A good snag in a section with lots of cats using it has a better chance of attracting lots of cats. This again is one reason for fishing quickly from hole to hole, looking for active cats, at least on your first trips to a river you haven't fished in a while or haven't fished before.

Occasionally, though, you'll also find situations where almost every snag, no matter how small and poorly placed, will have a cat or two using it. This most often occurs during prespawn — when cats are actively feeding and roaming. Or it occurs in river sections with a huge catfish population. Many rivers across the country are like this; that is, catfish populations are booming in many areas. But it won't seem like it if you insist on fishing the same five or ten holes for the entire season.

By The Season

A Quick Check And A Quick Cat.

Catfish make seasonal movements within rivers and tributary streams. The basic movement is upstream into smaller water during spring and early summer, then back downstream into bigger water during summer and especially fall. During winter, catfish must gather in holes with sufficient depth and current where oxygen is available to sustain them. Such holes are most likely in downriver sections.

Soon after spawning and as the water begins to drop during summer, cats tend to move downriver. Tiny stream sections that hold fish during early summer might not hold many fish during late summer; although some cats usually remain in the deepest holes. On the other hand, during wet summers cats may remain in river sections that run almost dry during most summers. So while seasonal trends apply, weather also plays a part. The point is that we can't just think riffles, holes, and runs, but must also concentrate on river sections that hold the most fish during each yearly period.

The species of catfish makes a difference, too. Flatheads rarely move more than one tributary away from a major river, while channel cats may push into tiny water, sometimes into tributaries several tributaries removed from a major river. Blue cats, even more than flatheads, are fish of big rivers. Smaller blues may push upriver into the beginning stretches of tributary streams just off big water, but rarely much farther. The biggest blues stay in big water.

Perhaps the watershed of streams and rivers where I grew up fishing in northwest Iowa is something like where you fish. The Little Rock River is a tiny stream only a step or two across as it runs some 60 miles through southern Minnesota into northwest Iowa and enters the Big Rock River near Doon. Meanwhile, the Big Rock River has coursed south for some 100 miles through southern Minnesota and northwest Iowa, beginning as a tiny stream and increasing in size to 100 feet across in the lower section just before it enters the Big Sioux River above Hawarden. The Big Sioux is a major tributary of the middle Missouri, beginning in northern South Dakota as a tiny stream and running almost 200 miles before it meets the Missouri at Sioux City.

Flatheads are common in the lower section of the Big Sioux, becoming less common 50 miles upriver. Occasionally, a blue cat is caught in the lower Big Sioux. Meanwhile, I have had wonderful fishing for small channel cats in Otter Creek, a tiny tributary of the tiny Little Rock River, which again, flows into the Big Rock, which flows into the Big Sioux, which flows into the Missouri. These cats are hundreds of miles and many minute stream sections removed from the Missouri.

What national treasures are these remaining relatively unaltered watersheds. Most tiny tributary streams like Otter Creek, you see, have been straightened and tiled into nonexistence. Where marshes once gathered rain water, filtered it, and then sent it slowly on its way through miles and miles of tiny coursing tributary streams, streams that ran relatively clear and clean, we now too often face a treeless countryside, where arrow-straight chutes carry tiny trickles of water some seasons and ranging flood waters the next.

We need to protect what remains as we revitalize that which has been damaged. Question authority where alteration to any river or stream is concerned, particularly at the county level, where the temptation to ignore state and national mandates concerning national resources often runs strong in some states. To still be able to float for miles along many of our nation's rivers, catching catfish for sport and for our tables, and not be besieged by hordes of other anglers is a great abiding freedom. Reading small rivers right is only part of the equation for continued good fishing.

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.
-----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.
-----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 '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.
Serves four.

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