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Strove to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.

10/12/2003

A FEW WORDS ABOUT SALTWATER CATFISH
Whenever someone asks me what kind of fish I caught on a particular day and I grumble, "Just a bunch of catfish," the response is inevitably positive: "Oh, great! I love catfish! Gonna fry 'em up? Mmmm-mmm!" Etc.

NO. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

Saltwater catfish (or "Osama fish") are different from their freshwater cousins, and I want to set the record straight: there's nothing positive about the existence of these animals. At all. Many strange and terrible creatures, no matter how superfically despicable, play important roles in the vast, delicate balance of the natural world: experts tell us that mosquitos, rattlesnakes, mean wasps, poodles, stupid people, chihuahuas, ghosts and pterodactyls all have their place in the grand scheme of things, like nasty pieces of some huge, scary puzzle.

But the saltwater catfish is less a fish or other necessary food-chain element than a plague... Some sort of cosmic retribution dreamt up by God to punish humanity for its worst sins. Every time scientists mock natural order by grafting an afro onto to a chicken or inventing a remote-control banana, or a some idiot South American peasant cuts down a tree in a rain forest somewhere to pay for those acid-washed jeans, that terrycloth shirt and that carton of Dorals, Mother Nature's fetid womb opens up and spews forth onto my fishhooks a thousand or two of these hateful, finned child molesters of the sea.

Yeah, that's right - they molest children. They also:

  • Complain about being hooked in a loud, persistent and distinctly flatulent bark.

  • Shit all over the place the instant they leave the water. Or maybe they're just constantly shitting - I wouldn't be surprised. Regardless.

  • Are covered in a thick, translucent, boogery slime that permanently adheres to your line.

  • Have needle-sharp, venom-coated spines sheathed in their dorsal and pectoral fins.

  • Are inedible. Some lunatics swear that a certain variety is alright for the table, but how they even made it through all that bukkake dripping off of 'em to skin 'em and give 'em a try is beyond my understanding.

  • Are plentiful. I have had days where I caught one on every single damn cast, one after the other for hours at a time.

  • Are indestructible. I release most of my catches and make it a point to be as delicate as possible with fish in general - the poor things didn't ask to be caught, after all, and I want to do everything I can to ensure their survival after I get through harassing and yanking on 'em. Some people delight in killing every saltwater catfish they haul up, but I'm a conservationist at heart and figure I may as well apply my standards across the board. This isn't to say that I haven't occasionally gotten frustrated with the little fuckers and poked 'em in the eye, beat 'em up a bit or launched 'em a few dozen feet into the air during the release process. But no matter how roughly I handle these fish they just bark, shit, ooze, stab me with one of their spines, flip me a bird and swim off laughing and getting ready to jump back on my hook at the earliest opportunity.

    I'd rather catch the dread stingray than a saltwater catfish (and believe me, I catch plenty of those fuckers too), even though stingrays have a brittle, poisonous barb on their whiplike tails, not to mention a really, really gross mouth that looks like that movie of a pulsating ventricle or aorta or whatever it was that I had to watch in 6th grade health class. As bothersome and potentially crippling as a stingray encounter may be, these weird alien fish do have a few positive qualities. They're occasionally eaten by the very bored or hungry, and they're usually pretty docile (I even had one bond with me after I unhooked it - damn thing followed me around for half an hour, gazing up at me like a lonely puppy and freaking me out until I dropped a brick on it).

    Saltwater catfish, on the other hand, go into some kind of supersonic death twist when they get hooked, rolling like Don Zimmer after a run-in with Pedro Martinez and twisting up your leader while barking, trying to stab you with their deadly fins and getting as much fish poop and slime everywhere as they can muster.

    A few years ago I got some crazy idea into my head (fancy that) where I was convinced the sharp spines of the saltwater catfish weren't truly venomous. I figured it was just a misconception based on infections resulting from the occasional puncture, or some old hillbilly canard drummed up to frighten yankees. Then I got stuck. Right in the meaty part of my hand. I didn't die or anything, but it hurt like nothing else I've experienced in an action-packed lifetime filled with injuries, indignities and a significant lack of self-regard. I seem to have recovered pretty nicely, thankfully - some people have experienced permanent paralysis in a finger or hand after a good catfish jab. Though I must admit that since it happened I have had Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie" going through my head on a loop, and sometimes get distracted trying to figure out what the hell is a "dutchie" and wondering if maybe those kids weren't a little young to be messing around with dutchies in the first place, if a dutchie is what I suspect it is. And I'm pretty sure that it is.

    Anyway, I'm starting to get a little worked up here just thinking about this shit, so to summarize: saltwater catfish are real bad. Don't act all excited at the thought of getting ahold of a mess of 'em for a fish-fry or people in the know will deride you as a hopeless landlubber. And for the good of America, heckle and demean them every chance you get. Thank you.

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