10/31/20 Clayton column Clayton: Back in action

Luke Clayton
Luke is back in his element, making ready to fry some fresh catfish over an open fire. Photo by Jeff Rice.
Luke Clayton

Until recently, you might have noticed my columns have been more about past experiences in the outdoors and tips rather than the usual "on the scene" style that I am accustomed to. A couple months ago, I underwent prostate surgery. I’m doing fine now but I won’t kid you, there was a period of about two months where I was definitely not hitting on all eight cylinders. 

A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed my first post-surgery fishing trip with my good friend Seth Vanover at Lake Fork and just last week, I spent some time hunting with a couple of other great friends, Jeff Rice and Larry Weishuhn. So, let me recount these two outings that actually fit nicely together.

A call from Seth three weeks ago went something like this, “Luke, it sounds like you are about ready to get back on the water and catch some catfish. Are you game for a mid-week outing this coming week?” My reply was a resounding YES, my strength was getting back close to normal and the opportunity to visit with my buddy and feel the tug of catfish on my line put me in fishing mode!

I met Seth at The Minnow Bucket and after launched the boat we headed to one of Seth’s favorite catfish hot spots situated on a ledge that fell from shallow to deep water. One look at the graph and it was obvious the fish were there, in great numbers.

Fifty pounds of range cubes poured over the gunwales of the boat and the graph instantly plotted a mountain of catfish holding within a few feet of bottom, right under out boat. The range cubes put them in feeding mode and Stubby’s Cheese bait close to bottom was the ticket to nonstop action. The catching was fast and furious and within a couple hours, we both had limited out on good eater channel catfish.

It was amazing to watch the catfish when Seth turned on his Livescope. We "played" with some of them; stopping the bait a few feet above and watching an occasional fish leave the school and actually come up to take our baits.

I left the cleaning dock with a total of 100 fillets, two from each of the 50 catfish we had landed. I informed Seth that the next week, I would be doing my first post surgery hunt with my friends Larry Weishuhn and Jeff Rice and a mid day fish fry was in the plans. Seth already had his day booked with a fishing trip on Lake O the Pines and he would not be able to join us.

Knowing how much Seth likes crispy fried catfish and good talk with his friends around the campfire, it was tough for him to decline!

Hunting next

Weishuhn and I met Jeff at his Buck and Bass Ranch around midday the following week. Weishuhn and I were there to self film ourselves hunting hogs, he with his 44 magnum handgun and I with my 45 caliber Airforce AIrguns "Texan." 

Jeff was in his treestand with his bow and camera, pursuing a big 10-point buck he has been seeing on his trail camera. Our goal was to film some footage for our weekly video show, “A Sportsman’s Life” but we were all looking forward to spending a couple days together and eating some tasty "vittles."

I had smoked a big pile of pork country ribs and with baked sweet potatoes; we all had a tasty fall meal after the first evening hunt. Jeff had passed up several bucks including a very wide mature six-pointer he captured on video.

Hogs were everywhere and Larry and I got some good footage for our show. We could have each taken one but with plenty of pork in the freezer and a great meal awaiting us back at camp, I think we all opted not to spend the next couple hours skinning and dressing hogs, the BBQ pork and sweet potatoes was luring us back to camp! 

Harvesting game or catching a cooler full of fish is every sportsman’s goal, but the true rewards of a hunting or fishing trip is the quality time spent with family or friends. We had a great time that evening discussing past hunts and making plans for future outings. We spent the next morning shooting more video for our little outdoor show but around 11 a.m., the thought of fried catfish cooked outdoors began to take precedent over shooting video!

I had made plans to cook the fish outdoors. En route to camp, I stopped at Bucees and picked up some B&B Charcoal and a bag of their seasoned pecan wood. I placed a couple of concrete blocks about 15 inches apart, mounded up a big pile of the long burning charcoal between the blocks and when the coals began to turn gray, I placed some of the pecan wood atop the coals.

I probably could have fried the fish with only coals but I like to see the flames licking the bottom of my cast iron skillet. With a metal grate on top of the fire, the cooking oil was soon rolling. To my way of thinking, there is nothing better than crispy fried fish fillets cooked over a wood fire.

One mistake a novice fish fryer can make is not having the oil hot enough. I don’t use a thermometer but I listen for that sizzling sound my test piece of fish makes to insure the oil is hot enough.

We all regretted leaving camp later that afternoon but it was time to get back to civilization. I had completed my post-op test in the outdoors and found that I am now good to go. Thank goodness of great friends and the opportunity to spend time with them doing what we love to do. This is truly the prescription I recommend for complete recovery!

Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via email with outdoor news from your area or, just to say ‘howdy’ www.catfishradio.org