In 1984, then President Ronald Reagan declared August, National Catfish Month. The majority of catfish farms in the United States are located in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. The Catfish Institute (TCI) is the marketing part of the Farm-raised catfish industry and works to promote the catfish farmers and their product. Catfish is considered to be America’s largest aquaculture product.
CATFISH FARMING AND THE ECOSYSTEM
Catfish is not always grown in a “farm” setting, though. The catfish farm industry is not without its problems. “Fish farming is hailed by some as a solution to the overfishing problem. However, these farms are far from benign and can severely damage ecosystems by introducing diseases, pollutants and invasive species. The damage caused by fish farms varies, depending on the type of fish, how it is raised and fed, the size of the production, and where the farm is located.”
One significant issue is that—rather than easing the impact on wild populations—the farms often depend on wild fish species lower on the food chain, like anchovies, in order to feed the larger, carnivorous farmed species. It can take up to five pounds of smaller fish to produce one pound of a fish like salmon or sea bass. Overfishing of these smaller “forage” fish has repercussions throughout the ocean ecosystem.”
CATCH YOUR OWN CATFISH
Catfish are still plentiful in the open range (waters) of Florida. Though catfish are not deemed the prize fish to catch, they are still on the list as one of the most popular and tasty fish when it comes to a good down home dinner. One popular variety of catfish is called the Blue Catfish. “These relatively large catfish show a hump just in front of their dorsals. They're blue/gray and also found in the northwestern part of Florida. You can catch them along with flatheads in the Escambia, but they're also in the Suwannee. They like clear, moving water and sandy bottoms. River edges, damns, sea walls, rips (those angled walls of small stone used to diminish erosion on river turns) and estuaries hold the fish.”
Another good variety of catfish is the Bullhead Catfish. “You can catch Bullhead catfish (brown and yellow versions) pretty much anywhere in Florida except the southern canals and Everglades, where it is not common. Something to think about is that they like slow-moving or even still water, and love the mud. You will find them on sandy bottoms but more often they're in mucky bottoms. That means you will catch them in small bays, small pockets, and deeper holes in water that is relatively muddy compared to surrounding waters. They're great fish to catch in lakes and even small ponds if they're deep enough.”
No way can you have Catfish Month without a few catfish recipes. I suggest a big fish fry to celebrate this month. Catfish can be used as an appetizer or entrée and can be broiled or baked, pan-fried or grilled. And after cooking can be used in tacos,
1 - Grilled Catfish Tacos with Citrus Slaw
4 Catfish fillets
1 tablespoon mild or hot chili powder
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
4 flour tortillas, “soft taco” (10-inch) size
Lemon and/or lime wedges
Cilantro leaves (optional)
2 cups prepared coleslaw mix
1 cup orange sections, diced
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
Prepare grill. Combine chili powder, oil and lime juice in a small bowl; brush over both sides of fillets. Arrange in a wire grilling basket coated with cooking spray.
Place grilling basket on a grill rack; grill 6-8 minutes on each side until catfish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Place 1 fillet on a tortilla, and top with ¾ cup Citrus Slaw. Squeeze lemon and lime over slaw. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.
For Citrus Slaw: Combine all ingredients in a bowl; tossing gently. Cover and chill.
2 - BBQ Catfish with Grilled Corn Relish
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon pure chili powder, preferably medium hot
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
6 Catfish fillets
BBQ sauce, purchased or homemade
2 ears corn, husked
2 1/2 teaspoons fruity olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 large green bell pepper, diced
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To marinate the catfish, mix salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar and paprika in a small bowl. Spread evenly over both sides of catfish fillets, place on a dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
About 1 hour before serving, prepare charcoal for grilling and let burn until coals are hot.
To prepare the corn relish, brush corn lightly with some of the olive oil and lay on the grill rack over the hot coals. Grill, turning often, until golden on all sides. Cool. Cut kernels from cobs with a sharp knife into a large bowl. (There should be about 1 1/3 cups.)
Heat remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes or until very soft and fragrant. Cool and add to bowl of corn kernels.
Cut tomatoes in half and gently squeeze out seeds and discard. Dice the tomatoes. (There should be about 1 1/3 cups.) Add tomatoes and green pepper to corn mixture. Mix in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste salad and adjust seasonings if desired.
To grill the catfish, brush the marinated fillets with olive oil and lay on the grill over the hottest part of the fire. After about 30 seconds, turn fillets 90 degrees and grill on the same side for 30 seconds longer. Move the fillets to a cooler part of the fire and cook 2 minutes longer on that side. Turn over and cook 3 to 4 minutes on the other side, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Just before the fillets are done, brush with barbecue sauce.
Place the grilled catfish on serving plates and spoon corn relish over them. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
3 – Bronzed Pan-Fried Catfish
4 Catfish Fillets
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
IN A SMALL BOWL, stir spices together until well mixed. Sprinkle both sides of fish with spice mixture, patting onto fillets.
HEAT oil with butter in a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. When it begins to bubble, add fillets.
COOK until fish flakes, about 4 minutes per side, and serve.
The recipes are endless and if you want to further explore cooking with this great fish, go to the website, https://www.uscatfish.com/recipes/
★ Call Missy Donaghy for a FREE consultation 321-279-3301.