Late July always provides a few intolerably hot days. It is just too miserable to do anything, except maybe go fishing. Most types of fishing can be strenuous and not suited for hot days. Going after catfish takes just the right amount of energy that can be expended of hot sultry days. A milk jug with a string and a hook can be baited with liver, shrimp, or crawfish. If fishing is slow, a person can always eat the bait. People in the northern states consider crawfish bait and shrimp a delicacy. Southerners will eat shrimp but prefer to think of them as bait. Crawfish are the greatest meal to them. I have been in both places long enough; I can see both points of view. I enjoy nice fresh shrimp and it is hard to beat a crawfish boil. Whatever a person chooses for bait, attach it to the hook with enough line to almost reach the bottom where the catfish feed. While waiting for one to pass by and gobble it down, a person can pass the time by sleeping or drinking lots of fluids. No special effort need be made in fishing, such as repeated casting or reeling in of the line. If the milk jug starts bobbing up and down, or starts leaving for other parts, all a person has to do is run down and grab it. Half the fun can be boating after a runaway milk jug. There is really no hurry to bring him in. Where is it going to go? It can not get out of the lake.
When a person does catch up with their fish, supper is almost ready. Preparation time for a catfish, at least for me, is less than any other type of fish. The skin can be quickly pulled off with a pair of pliers after a cut is made around the head. Insides and head are removed, body rinsed, and the whole thing is ready to be breaded and fried. Commercially prepared breading mixes are easy to use and have just the right amount of seasoning. I also like it because at the last Pheasants Forever banquet I attended, I won enough nice little packages of breading to last for several years. I like to use a deep cast iron pan on an open flame by the side of the lake to cook my catfish. Peanut oil does not splatter as badly as vegetable oil and imparts a nice flavor to the fish. The cast iron pan maintains an even temperature when adding or removing more fish. A one to two pound catfish can be nicely fried in one piece. Larger fish may have to be cut into steaks or filets. Our catfish were stocked several years ago, so some of them have to be cut into steaks in order to fit the pan. Cooking takes a little longer for a thick catfish steak, but the wait is well worth it.
A nice fresh deep-fried catfish at the side of the lake will look as good as any a person can order in a restaurant, but it will taste better. It is a great way to get away from it all on a hot summer evening. If it is a slow night of fishing, or if everybody decides it is too hot to go fishing, just eat the bait. It is pretty good also.