There are good days of fishing and there are great days of fishing. I have only had great days of fishing with Eric Passe. Not everyday has produced a live well full of fish but everyday has produced a great time with a great friend. My last outing with Eric was a couple of weeks ago and he took me out on the Mississippi river fishing for whatever was going to bite. Within minutes of arriving at the first spot Eric had already hooked a very nice 21 inch walleye that went right into the live well. Shortly after that he hooked another only this time he was a little more excited. Eric has a very unique ability to tell what kind of fish and about how big that fish is before he even gets it into the boat. After about 15 minutes of fighting the fish I netted it and it was this beautiful 29 1/2 inch walleye. He put that one back in the river.
I have been fishing with Eric for 12 or 13 years now and we do a bit of duck hunting together as well. I am not lying when I say that I could sit in a boat drinking Busch Light with him all day and just watch him fish. He has fished a part of the Mississippi river his whole life and has gotten to know it so well that going out with him isn't really fishing, its more like stealing from nature.
I didn't get any walleyes that day but it seemed like I was catching fish left and right, mostly sheeps head and small bass with the occasional sun fish mixed in and then I got a very strange bite. It felt very much like something was just gumming my worm. I let it have a little line and then wham, set the hook and was into something good. Eric could tell by the way the fish was heading up river and by the way it was tugging out line that it was probably a catfish. I know some people aren't found of catfish but I love everything about them. They fight like nothing else and if you take care of them after you catch them they are delicious.
I don't get the opportunity to clean catfish very often but there is something about cleaning cats that I really like. I like to rip all the skin off and then cut the two big fillets off each side, if done correctly I can usually come away with boneless fillets. Caring for your fish starts before that, Eric and I filled the live well with ice and then all the fish we are going to keep go on ice as soon as they are caught. This helps prevent the fish from getting to warm and breaking down. Sometimes in the summer months the water in the live well can get pretty warm and if the fish are in there for a long time it can make the meat a bit mushy.It also has the added bonus of meaning you don't have to drain the live well after your done fishing.
After filleting them I placed them in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag with a teaspoon of kosher salt and then covered the fillets in water and let them sit in the fridge overnight. I find that this step removes some of the fishy taste that can sometimes be off putting .
I caught two catfish that day and they were probably in the 6-8 pound range, perfect for eating. I had watched an episode of the PBS series "The Mind Of a Chef" where they were eating shaved catfish. Shaved catfish is basically just a fillet of catfish that has been sliced thinly, breaded and fried. A quick google search said that it originated in the depression when they were trying to maximize the amount of fish they had. I can see why it worked, the one fillet I used, sliced into 6 thinner pieces and fed my family of 4 no problem.
The process was pretty easy I marinated the fillets in buttermilk for about 30 minutes then tossed them in flour dipped them in egg wash and gave them a coating of corn flour and corn meal. They fry up pretty quickly and come out in these magnificent sheets of fried goodness. I gave mine a sprinkle of salt and Old Bay seasoning and they were delicious.