Tagged: techniques

How to Fillet a Catfish

catfish

Even though catfish don’t have scales, they are still often considered to be a tough fish to fillet, mostly because of their tough skin. There are a number of different techniques out there for dealing with catfish. But with a good, sharp knife, or electric knife, filleting a catfish may be easier than other fish.

Some people try to remove the skin first, but this usually requires the use of pliers and a good grip to pull the skin off after making a thin incision around the fins and fillet. A sturdy glove may come in handy with this method. A more preferred method is to cut off the fillet, with skin, followed by cutting the fillet from the skin. This is an easier method that can also leave less skin and connective tissue on the fillet.

There is some disagreement on whether a knife or an electric knife is better for the job. This may depend on how many fish or how often you fillet a fish. Both require some training to get it right, but usually those with less fish to fillet tend to use an electric knife. If the number of fish gets large, a good knife may be less costly than a number of electric knives and blades. One knife that looks very sturdy is the Bubba Blade knife. A number of people swear by the Mister Twister electric fillet knife, or at least their blades. The 110 V plug-in version is needed for the power. The American Angler electric fillet knife also gets high praise.

Another big difference in approaches is whether to cut through the rib cage or around it. For small catfish, it is fairly easy to cut through the ribs, but on larger sizes (5-6 lbs and up) you will need a sharp, sturdy knife to cut the ribs.

On a small fish – make a cut on the side, behind the head from the top of the fish (dorsal side) near the front of the dorsal fin down behind the pectoral fins to in front of the pelvic fin. Cut through the rib cage to the spinal cord, then turn knife to go parallel to spine and cut to the tail. Stop the cut before cutting through the skin at the tail, and then flip the fillet towards the tail so that the fillet is showing. While holding onto the fish, beginning from where the fillet is attached at the tail, cut the fillet from the skin by pushing the knife between the fillet and skin while pulling the fish to keep the skin tight. It helps to begin the cut with the point of the knife or flex the electric knife blade to get a good cut. If you didn’t stop the initial cut of the fillet at the tail, you will need to grab the skin at the tail with pliers and cut the fillet from the skin, from tail to head. Finally, cut out the ribs from fillet.

On a larger fish (> 5-6 lbs) – make a partial cut on side, behind the head, up to the spine, then cut along the spine until you get past the ribs, then plunge the knife through the fish (from dorsal to ventral side) and cut along the spine to the tail. Then come back and trim around the ribs back to the initial cut on the side. The fillet still needs to be skinned and if you didn’t cut the fillet off at the tail, flip the fillet over at the tail and cut the fillet from skin from where it attached at the tail. If you cut the fillet off at the tail, grab the skin at the tail with pliers and cut from tail to head. There is some dark red meat on the lateral line of the fillet that you may prefer to remove. This can be cut with a V-cut to remove, but it will split you fillet in half. The top and bottom edge may need trimming as well. A slightly different version for larger fish is to start the cut behind the rib cage at an angle. Cut to spine and then back to tail. This loses some of the shoulder portion of the fillet. For this size fish, the belly flap can also be trimmed off. This is under the section of skin on the belly near the head. Just finish cutting from the initial side cuts from both sides, towards the jaw. Cut or pull any small tendrils attached, and cut in front of the pelvic fin to separate the belly flap. There is skin on one side and membrane on the other that needs to be removed. This is sliced off just like removing the skin from the fillet by grabbing the skin/membrane, with meat on top, and cut while pulling the skin.

Watch these three videos. They are very good at describing these methods of filleting catfish.

Pool Noodling for Catfish – the Other Kind of Noodling

Picture by Catfish Sutton

OK, something is going to have to change.  When it comes to noodling for catfish, there seems to be two different kinds that are competing for the same name.  One type of noodling is to catch a catfish by finding where the catfish is held up in a hole, and then you reach your hand or arm down into the hole and stick it in the catfishes’ mouth.  When the catfish crabs on, you pull your arm out of the hole with the catfish attached and there you have it.  Well maybe not quite as easy as that, because it usually includes a lot of chomping and yelling.

But then there’s the other type of noodling, but maybe it can be distinguished when some call it pool noodling.  It’s called pool noodling because it’s a method of catching catfish using one of those noodles you see in just about every swimming pool these days.  It’s just a long foam plastic tube that you can buy just about anywhere for real cheap.  This method is really just a newer conversion of jug fishing (or jugging) where they just use any old nasty plastic jug with a line and hook attached.  And sorta related to limb line fishing, throw line fishing, or maybe a single hook version of trotline fishing.  Everybody’s got to do something different.

Anyway, for pool noodling, you make your noodle by tying the fish line to the end of a 1-2 ft length of noodle.  But a couple of different ways have been devised to keep the line from tearing through the noodle.  One is to put a small metal or plastic tube through the end of the noodle (across the diameter) and thread the fishing line through the tube. Another way is to put a PVC pipe (with same outer diameter as the ID of the noodle) through the length of the noodle (with a little gorilla glue to hold it in).  Then you can put two holes at one end of the PVC pipe to tie the fishing line through.  Or as Gobblin tom shows in this video, you can put two caps on the ends of the PVC pipe, put a weight in the pipe, and screw an eye-bolt to one end to attach the fishing line.  The tube is laid flat on the water and when the bait is hit by a catfish, the tube tilts, the weight shifts and the noodle stands up.  With some reflective tape on the top end, it’s easy to see, even at night.  The weight shift idea may cause a few false positives for catches, but I don’t see a problem.  Even if a little nibble turns some noodles upend, they can still catch catfish.  If you wanna be real sure, watch the noodle bob underwater or be drug around to verify the catch.

Also be sure to write you name and address on the noodles or in some states, like Oklahoma, you could get in deep trouble.  This type of noodling is a lot easier method of catching a catfish than the catfish-in-a-hole type of noodling, and doesn’t require all the yelling from the pain of being ravaged by a catfish.  But there is still plenty of yelling many times just because its so easy to grab a nice catfish with a pool noodle. Maybe we should call it Pooloodling or Poodling???

Fishing Tips and Techniques for Catfish of the USA

catfish

Catfish are common in American waterways, fun to catch and delicious as table fare.

Channel catfish are the most abundant of the North American catfish species. They usually weigh 2-4 lbs, occasionally reaching weights of 40 pounds or more. Channel catfish are easily distinguished from other species, except blue catfish, by their deeply forked tail fin. They are olive-brown to slate-blue on the back and sides, with silvery-white on the belly. Channel cats can be caught using a variety of natural and prepared baits including crickets, nightcrawlers, minnows, shad, crawfish, frogs, sunfish, suckers and “stink baits”.

Blue catfish are the largest American catfish. They grow faster and live longer than channel catfish. Blue catfish grow to over 55 inches long and can weigh over than 100 pounds, living 20-25 years. Adult blue catfish have stout bodies with prominently humped back in front of the dorsal fin. They have deeply forked tails similar to channel catfish, but lack spots and have a large straight edged anal fin. The back and upper sides are blue to slate gray, and the lower sides and belly are white. Blue catfish are primarily large-river fish, occurring in main channels, tributaries, and impoundments of major river systems. When fishing for trophy catfish anglers use live baits including bluegill, perch, large shiners or other bait fish.

White catfish are another American species. White catfish are bluish-gray with white undersides, broad head, large mouth, stout build and moderately forked tail. Their white chin barbells distinguish it from other species of catfish. White catfish occasionally reach lengths up to 24 inches and weigh 6 pounds but a typical fish is around 12-14 inches. White catfish are found in fresh and brackish waterways of the Atlantic Coast from New York to Florida, including the Chesapeake Bay and its system of rivers, creeks and streams.

Several species of bullhead catfish live throughout North America, with 3 species being well known. They are similar in appearance, but easy to distinguish from non-bullhead species due to their squared tail and stocky build. Black bullhead have dark chin barbels and lack mottled markings on their sides. Brown bullhead have mottled sides and light margins on their fins. The common yellow bullhead are distinguished from other species of bullhead by their yellow or off-white chin barbels.

Depending on the region, bullheads may be referred by a variety of common names including bullhead catfish, bullheads, mud cats, pollywogs, pollies, river catfish, horn pout and others. Black, Brown and Yellow bullhead catfish prefer slow moving or still waterways but will tolerate a variety of habitats, including muddy water and low oxygen levels. They rely primarily on sense of smell to find food which consists of almost anything, alive or dead.

Bullhead catfish can be caught with the same techniques that are commonly used for other catfish. They are easily enticed with worms, hellgrammites, stink baits or cut baits fished on the bottom. they make excellent table fare and are a good choice for anglers that enjoy simple relaxing fishing for edible fish.

Large catfish are sometimes caught by “noodling”. Noodling is done by wading in water and inserting a hand down into holes under mud banks, rocks, or inside of hollow logs. Using bare hands as bait, the noodler wiggles their fingers in the hole in hopes that they find a large catfish. If the noodler is lucky, a monster catfish will strike and attempt to swallow their hand. The noodler then must pull the fish out onto land or onto a waiting boat without being pulled under water.

Catfish can be skinned and filleted, with the resulting flesh being white, mild tasting and suitable for a wide range of cooking methods. They are one of the most commonly discussed fish products online and plenty of cooking ideas are available by finding a seafood blog. The following recipe is for a classic meal of deep-fried beer-battered catfish.

Photo by Hank Shaw of simplyrecipes.com

Beer Battered Catfish

1 lb. catfish fillets
1/2 cup flour or seafood breader mix
1 egg (beaten)
1 bottle beer
1 small onion (minced)
1 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium mixing bowl blend flour, salt, and pepper or use seafood breader mix.

In a separate medium mixing bowl beat egg well, add beer and minced onions, mix well.

Cut the catfish into 2 inch cubes or strips.

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or skillet.

Roll the catfish into the coating, then dip into the beer-egg mixture, then back into the flour mixture.

Place dipped catfish in heated oil, cooking until golden brown.