Smoked Catfish

$7.95 Per Pound
Jay International Foods Company
3172 S. Grand Blvd.

Smoked Catfish

Seen a foodstuff you're too timid to try? Malcolm will eat it! E-mail particulars to [email protected]

Fifty-four point eight-six pounds.

That's the weight of the mud cat 26-year-old Adam Duncan recently landed while angling with a rod and reel in southern Illinois' Baldwin Lake. "It was big," Duncan, who had a friend videotape the tussle, told the Belleville News-Democrat. "[I]t pretty much felt like I was pulling in a Volkswagen."

As an assistant manager at Duncan's Auto and Truck Repair in Belleville, I'm guessing Duncan doesn't choose his automotive similes lightly. This is a man, after all, who is stalking history — or, more precisely, Jody Harris, who on August 11, 1995, pulled a 78-pound flathead from the depths of Carlyle Lake, a state record. "That's what I'm shooting for, is the record," Duncan told the paper. "I just want to be in the record books."

Once a lowly junk fish, thought to be beneath serious anglers' contempt, catfish is the new bass. Not only has the sonar-tracking crowd discovered that with weights of up to 100 pounds, catfish put up a fine fight, but they've also discovered that, bottom-feeder though it is, catfish makes for good eating. Unless, that is, like me you happen to be gnawing on the carcass of a smoked catfish from Jay's International Market.

Gutted, folded into a shape resembling a clef and then smoked whole, it's not so much the taste of this smoked catfish that offends the palate. It's the thing's puck-like durability. This is a foodstuff that rejected the fork I first used to flake its flesh off the bone. Instead of yielding to my tine's gentle prod, the fish rattled about, jumping like a bass on a line, before scurrying away from the plate and onto the floor. It wasn't until I availed myself of a serrated knife (read: bone saw) and placed the mummified mud cat firmly on a cutting board that I succeeded in scraping off a few grains of flesh.

My reward? A grainy, fishy, tooth-crushing substance that I can only hope (like this infernal summer) will pass. But apparently there are other rewards — history, and a shot at landing a monster catfish among them — that are worth braving the heat, at least for the Adam Duncans of the world. "I wouldn't go out in this heat unless I was trying to get that record," Duncan told the paper.

Duncan hoped to mount his prize, but the taxidermist wanted to charge $15 an inch.

In the end, Duncan decided not to mount the fish. Nor, thankfully, did he smoke it. Instead, he put the flathead in the freezer — not so bad a conclusion, if you think about it. At least someone's staying cool this summer.

About The Author

Scroll to read more Food & Drink News articles (1)
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Riverfront Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.