Mark Conner kindly took time to take us out in his boat to show us how he catches catfish. We loaded in at his dock seated on his fish tubs.
He held the boat steady. I brought my little pocket camera because I thought my big camera would be in the way. It doesn’t take as good pictures, but is adequate.
He quickly sped out a couple of miles into the Lake which is fed by the Manmertau River. He likes fishing for catfish and has done it since he was a boy. He was born and raised here in Lake Arthur.
He slows the boat and takes a visual read of points on land that give him the position of his underwater nets-no instrumentation. He’s done it so many times, he just knows where they are. He plants a stake in the bottom of the lake that keeps his net in one place.
He tosses out his home-made drag anchor.
He hand pulls the drag until it catches the ring on his net.
He snagged it on the first try.
The ring he hooks is only about six inches across.
The ring is attached to a heavy anchor you can see between his feet. Then Mark drags up the heavy net. You have to be strong to fish without a hydraulic lift. The water here is only about eight feet deep, but there is no visibility.
Up they come, a seething mass of catfish. Normally, he would have waited another week to check his nets. Most of them were thrown back in for size. He pulls them out with his bare hands. They have stinging whiskers and it is important to avoid getting stung.
He got four nice sized fish, three channel cats and one other type I’ve forgotten the name of. I didn’t know that catfish had different species that plied the same waters.
Since we were out anyway, he lined up on another net near this flooded island. The state has put a wood duck nest on a metal post that you can see to the right of center in the picture.
The second net, he has eleven, didn’t have anything in it but his bait and he steered us back to his house.
This time he steered the 16 ft. fishing boat right between those cypress trees in the middle, and brought us to shore instead of the dock.
He gutted the fish on his stainless steel fish cleaning station.
The fish is hung from a hook and Mark uses a special tool to grab the skin and strip it off. He works amazingly fast.
After skinning, the heads and fins are cut off.
Even though his partner, Marlene Ritter, bought him a beautiful filet knife, he prefers this big blade that he’s used forever. Mark will sometimes clean 100 fish a day or more. He works in the petroleum industry. Fishing is his hobby and he gives most of the fish he catches away.
He showed us a logger head turtle skull from a turtle he bought and ate. He told us you are only allowed to catch one turtle a year. They are pretty scarce and hard to find. Marlene gave me a bag of the special corn flower to make a batter to fry the fish. Louisianans do fried everything very well.
My first batch was a bit light, but the second one was the right color. They tasted heavenly and with Marlene’s recipe to fry some mustard into the batter? Scrumptious and fresh as it can be. What a delight. The fish provided 8 beautiful filets, perfect, without a hint of bone because Mark slices that filet away from the rib cage on both sides and tosses the middle.
We went back to the bar to say goodbye to our friends. A crawfish farmer was planning to take us out in a mudbug and we waited on a phone call. By the time it came, we were showered and dressed for the evening’s dance. I wanted to buy some boiled crawfish to take with us before we left and the next thing you know, we were at Leslie and Cody’s place and we left there with a date with Cody. “I’ll take you he said.”
I was too tired to dance, so I peeked in the door and took some pictures. Marlene and Mark, he has his back to the camera in the afro wig, cuttin’ a rug. These folks know how to have fun.