Skip to main content

The Catfish Coffee Club

The Catfish Coffee Club

The Catfish Coffee Club

The pickup's clock flashed 7:30 a.m. The weather report coming over the radio called for sunny skies and a high of around 45°F. Not bad for early November. If it did make the 40s, it'd be the warmest day in a week of freezing temperatures. Downing my last bit of coffee, I rolled into an old corner gas station on the farm country two-lane to check the boat gas.

I pumped a few gallons. No pay-at-the-pump here, so I stepped inside the station. A cowbell jangled against the front door when I pulled it open and again when it closed behind me. Straight ahead was the register. To the left, past the chip rack, was a small diner counter where two men were tucked up on swivel stools. They gave me an appraising look; I nodded, and they swiveled back to their breakfast. I was just a passerby. I suppose they expected to see someone they know when the cowbell clangs.

I handed the cashier a twenty. Waiting for change, I looked at snapshots taped to the counter of fishermen holding their catches. Dates covered at least three decades. Walleyes, pike, crappies, catfish, probably from the river I'd be fishing shortly.


I decided to have a coffee at the counter and let the sun climb higher and warmer. Heck, this late in the season, there's usually no need to go for catfish too early in the morning. Two of the four stools were occupied, and another had a cup of coffee sitting there waiting for someone. I sat on the last stool.


"What'll you have?" asked the attendant.

"Coffee, thanks," I said.

"Need a warm up, Coach?" she tipped the pot to the half-empty mug of the man wearing the crooked Twins hat.

"How 'bout you, Jack?"




Jack wore a DeKalb seed hat. Both men were older, likely retired and regulars at the station each morning.

I overheard them discussing fishing, their conversation quickly turning to baseball as I settled in. The World Series had ended about a week and a half earlier. Quite a contest thatwent seven games.

Coach swiveled in my direction. "Taking your boat down to J&E for storage?"


"Not yet," I replied. "Just gassing up. Still have maybe a couple weeks left of good fishing for channel cats."

"Catfish? It's a bit cold for catfishing."

Coach stabbed Jack in the side with his elbow and said, "You know, it was so cold this morning I saw a dog chasing a cat," he paused, tearing open a packet of Sweet'N Low, "and they were both walking." They laughed. I chuckled. The attendant shook her head.

"Mickey Rivers, Texas Rangers — darn good outfielder," Coach said. "Said that before a game postponed because of cold and rain. You're probably too young to remember him. Don't make 'em like Mickey anymore."

"You guys going fishing today?" I asked.

"I say too cold for baseball, too cold for fishing. Waste of time." Coach replied. "Don't do much catfishing, except in summer. Upstream of town." He pointed over his shoulder.

"Downriver from the launch you hit Johnson's Bend," Jack said. "Never did well in the Johnson's stretch, so don't waste your time there."

"Thanks for the tip," I said, as the cowbell jangled on the door and a man wearing coveralls walked in.

Coach and Jack swiveled toward him. "It's about time, Al," Coach said. "Beginning to think your rustbucket wouldn't start today."

"You boys ready?" Al said.

Coach and Jack stood up. "Been good talkin' with you," Coach said to me. Jack nodded and smiled. "Hope you get lucky and catch a cat but don't count on it this time of year."

I took another sip and looked out the window. The sun was higher now. The counter club boys climbed into an old Wagoneer and pulled away with ariver jonboat in tow. Must be taking it into storage, I thought.

After finishing a warm-up refill I stopped at the register to pay.

"Coffee's on Coach," the attendant said.

I looked down at the photos one last time. In the corner was an old yellowed Polaroid. Four men in warm coats and hats were holding a stringer full of nice catfish. There was writing on it:

Coach, Jack, Al and Joe

November 21, 1972, Johnson's Bend

I supposed the coffee waiting at the empty stool was a tribute to the memory of Joe, a catfishing friend and a coffee-club regular at the station who'd passed along but was still there in spirit.

Motoring downriver, the air was warmer now. The river turned up ahead. Must be Johnson's Bend, I thought. I made my way into the bend. It was then I knew I'd been had. There sat Coach, Jack, and Al, anchored on the outside turn. Coach grinned and hoisted a stringer with a couple cats, a sort of salute to my initiation, I suppose. I smiled, waved, and continued downstream.

Too cold for catfishing? Sure, Coach. It was at that moment I suppose I became an official member of the catfish coffee club.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

Where to Find Catchable Fish

Where to Find Catchable Fish

Here are some suggestions of general fishing locations to look for in your area if you're heading out on an adventure with your family soon.

Timing Hot Bites

Timing Hot Bites

In this episode, the In-Fisherman Staff shows how to get in on peaking fishing opportunities, as they target shallow slab crappies, drop deep for jumbo perch, and use topwaters for primetime 50-inch muskies. Here's a clip!

Crescent CK1 Venture Kayak

Crescent CK1 Venture Kayak

The Crescent CK1 Venture is a lightweight, throw-and-go, nimble paddling kayak that is universally capable on most waters thanks to a proven and versatile hull design that also keeps you high and dry. The CK1 Venture is 11 feet long, 34 inches wide, has an overall capacity of 400 pounds and weighs only 60 pounds.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the In-Fisherman App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top In-Fisherman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now