Since we live so close to the river, we decided to go fishing. A hundred bucks later, we were licensed, equipped, and ready to go.
We tried worms. No luck. We tried Shad-in-a-bag. No luck. We tried chicken livers. LUCK! Underneath the river bridge, we caught 3 catfish. Two channel and one blue. Not very big. But enough for a meal!
My husband and oldest son put the fish in an old bathtub in the pasture and filled it with water. My husband said keeping them in clean water for a day cleans the mud from their systems. We left them overnight, hoping that no critters found themselves a treat we spent hours catching.
There are lots of coyotes around here. At sunset, they start yipping and howling from almost every direction. Once when I was watering my watermelons at dusk, I heard one very, very close. I tried to locate it with no luck. I NEED night-vision goggles!
The fish were still there in the morning, and the water was full of dirt. Hmmm. Maybe the hubs was right.
In the afternoon, we decided it was time to prepare for a catfish fry. Eric brought a 6-foot, vinyl table to the field and placed it next to the bathtub. We had an official fish-cleaning station! Right by the road for passersby to see the show.
I’ve never killed a catfish before. Apparently, neither had my husband. He brought a hunting knife to do the deed. He was worried about sharp parts of the fins cutting him, so he stabbed one through the skull in the water. He plopped it on the table. It was violently flopping its tail from side to side, eyes blinking, gills gasping. I wasn’t about to start cutting into a live animal.
“IT’S NOT DEAD!” I protested.
“Yes it is. There’s a knife through its brain.”
“Push the knife back farther in case you missed.”
He humored me, then held it firmly in place with the hunting knife. Once he had convinced me it couldn’t feel anything, I began my first incision. It kicked. And I jumped.
“It’s dead!” He laughed. “Just filet it already.”
I didn’t have a proper filet knife. I had one of those “cuts through an aluminum can” knives. It was the sharpest I had. My knives suck. Needless to say, I wasn’t making a beautiful filet.
As I held the meat in my left hand and cut with my right, I felt the muscles twitch between my fingers. I just knew the fish felt every little sinew being sawed through. I felt terrible and silently prayed, Oh God, please forgive me for torturing this fish to death! Then I remembered the respect given to a kill by the blue natives in Avatar. And I thought, Thank you, fish, for your sacrifice to feed my family.
I hacked away and looked at my other half with sad eyes.
“They twitch a long time after they’re dead.” He laughed again. This whole experience was giving him the giggles.
Onto to victim #2. I looked up how to humanely kill a catfish on my phone. A website suggested making an incision in the head, inserting a wire, and scrambling its brain. They made it seem so easy. I decided that’s what I would do.
Mr. Rains grabbed a fish and slammed it on the table. I incised it, inserted the wire, and attempted to scramble. Nothing. So hubby stabbed it in the head. Oh boy, here we go again.
We finished playing serial killer and took the meat inside. The boys had no idea we were doing this and my oldest was very displeased he had missed it. But I was pretty sure if he saw that debacle, he wouldn’t eat it.
I soaked the fish in buttermilk, dredged it in a cornmeal-and-Italian-breadcrumb mixture and fried it. Then I made some tarter sauce. Boiled and buttered, home-grown new potatoes from the in-laws’ garden were the side. My family was in heaven. It was pretty friggin good.
The hubs was scheduled to leave for a work trip in the morning. He decided to squeeze in every bit of fun he could and take us fishing after dinner.
Unfortunately, he caught another catfish. He put it in the tub and flew away to Canada. Great. I couldn’t leave the fish in the tank. I had to do that sucker alone.
The next day, the boys and I went to Walmart for a filet knife. In the sporting goods section, I ran into a friend from church. I asked her how she kills her fish. “I just slice its head off with my filet knife. It’s really sharp.” (She’s a pretty little school teacher.) I asked a family of strangers the same question. The teenage son said, “I hit it in the head with a rock.” Neither of these sounded like solutions for me, so I bought a machete and a fancy filet knife.
This will be much better, I thought.
The boys were inside watching a movie. I put on a full-coverage apron, grabbed my knives, pliers, and cutting board and snuck out the back door.
My first challenge was to grab the fish. The hubs had told me to watch out for the fins. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, made a couple false starts, then snatched that fish out of the water.
I placed it on a tree stump and apologized for what I was about to do. I raised the machete, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath to steel my nerves.
Whack, whack, whack, whack!
Blood splattered my forearms. The head was mostly off. Just hanging on by some skin. I removed it and left it on the stump. My dog knocked it off and rolled in it.
Ahhh. It wasn’t moving! Thank God. I couldn’t have filleted it alone if it was still trying to escape.
The filet knife was better. Not much, but some. If I had tried to cut off the poor thing’s head with it, he would have haunted me forever. Apparently, Walmart has qualms about selling sharp knives. It’s probably a lawsuit-prevention tactic.
I hung the carcass in a tree to keep Katie from rolling in that, too. After putting the filets in the freezer, I gave the dog a bath.
And there sits the fish, awaiting the day that we murder more of its kind and fry them to crispy, golden deliciousness. I can’t wait.