October 20, 1997
Ron Brooks from Georgia has been telling me fishtales and jokes for several weeks. Here is one of his first. It will really make you think about our environment, as well as entertain you.
Coosa River Cats
The day was absolutely perfect. A cool breeze was blowing from the North and no rain was forecast. My wife Susan was fearful of being caught in the boat in a rainstorm, so the outlook was great for her too. It's days like this that you tell yourself you won't catch anything. It was just too perfect.
The hour and a half trip, interrupted by a stop for a sausage biscuit and coffee, went all too slow as we made our way toward Rome. We had stopped by the Lock and Dam Park on the Coosa River outside of Rome on a previous roaming Sunday afternoon and thought it might be a place to revisit. The pictures of huge catfish covered one wall of the little camp store and tackle shop. It was raining then and there were very few people fishing off the old lock and even fewer trailers in the parking lot. But today was perfect as we launched there at the park.
My 15 foot Duracraft Jon boat and 25 Johnson seemed just perfect for this type of situation. I gave up serious bass fishing several years ago in Florida, opting for saltwater and the ability to actually bring fish home to eat. I sold the saltwater rig in Florida and when I arrived in Georgia, I decided I would not endure the expense of another fully rigged bass boat.
As we drifted out into the river below what is left of the old dam, the swift current took us in several circles. I was tempted to move up into the "tailrace" like we used to do below Pickwick Dam on the Tennessee River in Northwest Alabama, but thought better when I saw my depthfinder readings. Evidently, the old dam is scattered over the bottom and is a hazard for boat traffic.
We continued to drift as I set my wife up with a live shiner and I put on a nice glob of worms. Within minutes I felt the first fish. It was a nice channel cat about 5 pounds. And a few minutes after that another channel cat, this one about the perfect size to fry whole. The morning continued with wonderful weather and cooperative fish on worms and shiners. It was peaceful, but also unusual to see only one or two other boats on the river.
We were back at the ramp by noon with a nice box of catfish. One obvious bass fisherman asked if we did any good. I told him we did real well and had quite a lot of fish.
"Hybrids?', he said.
"No, channel cats, and a lot of them!", I said trying not to sound too proud.
The look on his face as he wrinkled his nose told me he was a more serious bass fisherman than I thought. All I got was an "Oh, you kept them?"
Now what was that supposed to mean? Of course I kept them you nut, I thought to myself.
We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought cooking oil, seasoning and fish batter. I could already smell them. As we rove past the local weekend all-you-can-eat catfish house, I kind of smirked, thinking about the $9.95 I was saving (now let me see, 120 miles in the truck, 4 gallons of gas in the boat, $10 for bait, the cost of the boat.......).
At home with my dog watching, I spent the next hour or so skinning catfish. Somehow I remembered them being a lot easier to skin several years ago. As I looked at the plate full of dressed catfish lay waiting in the kitchen, I thought, innocently enough, I wonder how many of these guys you can eat. After all the Georgia Game and Fish Commission, or whatever they call themselves, has very nicely provided a chart showing what you can eat and how often from the lakes and rivers of Georgia. Let's see....Coosa River....
There in black and white was listed "Coosa River - Floyd County". That's the one!! Hmmm... catfish...
All the way in the right hand column labeled "Do not eat" was not only catfish, but several other species!!!
No wonder we didn't see anyone else... no wonder that bass fisherman rolled his eyes!!! What a waste of time cleaning those guys..... Now I know why the weather was so good!!! What is this Coosa River anyway????
Well, with my pride in my pocket we ate catfish that night, not the Coosa River variety... the all-you-can-eat catfish house variety.
I wonder where they got their catfish from..??......