Skinning a Catfish

Ask any old-timer how to skin a catfish and he/she will probably tell you to nail the sucker to a tree and tear its skin off with a pliers. Am I right? Been there, done that myself. But with the current generations being more genteel, here is the ‘modern’ rendition of the above.

Grab a 3 foot length of 2×6 from the shop and place it on a flat surface. Using a sharp knife, score the skin all the way around the head, just in front of the catfish’s gill plates. Make a second slit all the way down the fish’s back.

Make a second trip to the shop and grab a hammer and a 16-penny nail. Drive the nail through the cat’s head into the 2×6 and cut off the dorsal fin. Make a third trip to the shop and grab a pair of pliers. Brace the board holding the fish (with its tail toward you) against your waist, or somehow holding the board steady, grasp the skin with the pliers and pull it down to the tail and off the fish.

Remove the fish from the board. Grasping the head in one hand and the body in the other, bend the head sharply downward toward the ground (floor) to break the fish’s spine. Bending the body upward, twist to separate the head from the body. After opening the body with your knife, remove any remaining viscera (guts and organs) and rinse well with plenty of clean water.

Any fish over a 4 pounder and you’ll need a cleaver to remove the head instead of the ‘bend and twist’ method. Oh, by the way, if you’re well-organized and grab every thing you’ll need from the shop the first time, you’ll save some steps and time.

Keep your fork


Fish and Shrimp Freshness Hints

  • Thawing fish in milk draws out the frozen taste and provides a fresh-caught flavor.
  • To get a sweet tender taste from frozen fish, try soaking the fish in vinegar and water before cooking it.
  • Wash your hands with vinegar and water or salt and water to remove the fishy smell from your hands.
  • Soak canned shrimp in a little sherry and 2 tablespoons of vinegar for about 15 minutes to get rid of the ‘canned taste’.

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Reuse Cooking Oil

Deep frying fish once in vegetable oil and then discarding the oil is not necessary. When on a fishing trip, using the oil only once means you must tote extra weight into camp which is neither desirable nor necessary.

Simply take along  an empty container, the same size as your oil container, to strain the used oil into. After frying up and enjoying your day’s catch, let the oil cool. When thoroughly cool, strain the oil through a coffee filter or a milk filter into the empty container. You can purchase the later from Filter-Clean in boxes of 100. If you have real deep pockets, you can purchase cooking oil filters from a place such as Gander Mountain. After the next night’s fish feast, use a clean filter to filter the oil back into the original container. You can do this several times before using new oil.

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Blisters and Duct Tape

You’re out hunting and notice a blister has formed on your foot for some odd reason. You don’t want to end the hunt early, but you fear the wrath you’ll receive from the wife/husband when you return home limping because infection has set in. Here’s a suggestion.

Using a sterilized needle from your first aid kit or sterilize the tip of your hunting knife and insert it under the base of the blister. Press out the fluid, keeping the skin flap intact.

Cut a hole, slightly larger than the size and shape of the blister in some pliable cloth and place over the blister. Place a second layer of cloth on top of the first and seal this homemade doughnut bandage to your foot with some duct tape. No duct tape? What kind of sportsman doesn’t carry a roll of duct tape at all times? Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to find a substitute tape or ask a buddy to use some of his/her duct tape.

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Fish Patties

There are very few things that I miss about living in South Dakota. Ice fishing is all that comes to mind at the moment. With the cold weather we’ve had, the Shenandoah froze over, but not enough ice formed for even a coyote to dare walk out on. Here’s a recipe for fish patties made from fresh fish that I can’t catch out here through the ice.

2 c fresh fish
1 Tbsp flour or 1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 c milk

Clean and bone fish, grind 4 times. Put into mixing bowl with flour, salt and pepper. Add 1 Tbsp milk at a time, beating about 2 minutes after each time until all milk has been used. Form into balls. Fry until done and brown in butter.

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Survival Fire Starters

If you have watched any survival reality program on TV you’ve seen there are various methods and ‘tinder’ to start a fire. Here are a few do-it-yourself options you could use for ‘tinder’.

  • Bicycle inner tube – Small strips or squares burn rapidly with a smoky flame; tube patching kits with both patches and glue also work well.
  • Dryer lint – collect a gallon reuseable bag full of dryer lint and mix  thoroughly with 1/8 cup of citronella lamp fuel.
  • Duct tape – use a fist-sized ball of loosely wadded tape.
  • Egg carton filled with saw dust – fill each section of the carton with saw dust and seal with melted paraffin wax; cut sections apart.
  • Emergency flare – use a 2 to 4 inch piece with the ends sealed with wax.
  • Cotton balls soaked with petroleum jelly – store in water proof pill bottle or test strip canister.
  • Birch bark – contains an oil that is flammable. Use strips off a dead or live birch tree.
  • Tinder fungus – bulbs of blackened wood on live birch trees; crumble to expose reddish-brown interior.
  • Punk wood – rotten, dry wood; scrape with a knife to get dust and small pieces.
  • Spanish moss – an air-plant hanging from branches; sometimes called ‘old man’s beard’.
  • Cedar bark – smash the fibers of common cedar bark; pull strands apart and roll back and forth between hands.
  • Sagebrush bark – pound and shred strips of bark to use.
  • Cattail fluff from inside the spike – burns out quickly so have other tinder nearby to light.

Keep your fork

If Catfish and I Were Norwegian

If Catfish and I were both Norwegian, this would be the conversation you would have heard this fall as we were sitting on the Shenandoah riverbank fishing.

Wanting to light a cigar to celebrate our luck at fishing I found I had no matches, so asked Catfish for a light.

“Ya, shure, I tink I haff a lighter,” he replied. Reaching into his tackle box, he pulled out a 10 inch long Bic lighter.

“Yiminy Cricket!” I replied, taking the huge Bic lighter from Catfish. “Vhere did yew git dat monster?”

“Vell,” replied Catfish, “I got it from my genie.”

“You haff a genie in your tackle box?” I asked.

“Ya, shure. It’s right here in my tackle box,” Catfish said.

“Could I see him?” I asked.

Catfish opened his tackle box and sure enough, out popped the genie. Addressing the genie, Catfish said, “Hey dere! I’ve got me a gude friend here. Vill you grant him vun vish?”

“Yes, I will,” said the genie. So I asked the genie for a million bucks. The genie disappeared back into the tackle box leaving me sitting there, waiting for my million bucks.

Suddenly, the sky darkened and filled with the sound of a million ducks flying overhead. Over the roar of the million ducks I yelled at Catfish, “Yumpin Yimmny. I asked for a million bucks, not a million ducks!” The catfish answered, “Ya, I forgot to tell yew da genie is hard of hearing. Do yew really tink I asked for a 10 inch Bic?”

Keep your fork