June 23, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
LONOKE — It’s not often that a fish is the subject of a presidential address, but that’s exactly what happened in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed June 25 National Catfish Day. In keeping with the 34-year annual observance, we’ve compiled a few great ways to enjoy one of Arkansas’s most eligible sport fish.
Reagan’s announcement in the 1980s focused on the value of catfish as an agricultural crop to both consumers and producers. According to the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Arkansas ranks third in catfish production in the U.S., but the fish’s appeal reaches far beyond commercial ponds in The Natural State.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission hatcheries produce more than 450,000 catfish per year, 270,000 of which are grown to catchable size and stocked in public waters for anglers to immediately catch and keep. Some of the best places to take advantage of these stockings are at ponds stocked by the AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program.
Here are a few different ways to prepare your catch after a fun day of fishing. While the traditional method is to roll the fillets in cornmeal and fry them up, we’ve offered a few alternatives to keep things interesting. No matter which way you cook them, get out and “Catch one for the Gipper" this summer.
2 pounds catfish filets
1 cup Buffalo chicken wing sauce
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup water
2 cups cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
Cajun seasoning to taste
Rinse filets and cut them into manageable pieces. Mix favorite wing sauce, buttermilk and water in 1-gallon resealable bag. Add catfish and refrigerate overnight; turn bag a couple of times to thoroughly coat pieces. Heat appropriate amount of vegetable oil in fryer or Dutch oven to 365 degrees. Add cornmeal, flour and favorite Cajun seasoning to 1-gallon resealable bag. Coat catfish pieces one at a time and add to hot oil. Fry about 3 minutes until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Instead of serving with tartar sauce, try a mixture of wing sauce and ranch dressing.
This recipe was featured in Arkansas Wildlife Magazine. Visit www.arkansaswildlife.com to subscribe.
This is strictly for cooking outdoors. Be sure to scrape and serve all the fish stuck to the skillet – that’s what tastes best.
1 stick salted butter per fillet
6-8 catfish fillets
Zatarain’s Blackened Seasoning
Melt butter in covered bowl in microwave oven. Drain and dry fillets; bring them to room temperature. Generously cover both sides of fillets with Zatarain’s Blackened Seasoning or equivalent. Place empty cast-iron skillet on propane burner. Raise heat higher than normal for frying fish. When a little smoke comes from skillet, it’s ready. Pour all melted butter in center of skillet; make sure butter isn’t spilled on burner. Quickly cover bottom of skillet with fillets; make sure each is touching skillet. Allow fillets to cook a couple of minutes; flip with metal spatula. Cook 2-3 minutes. Remove fillets and scrape crispy bits.
To add a little heat, drain a 10-ounce can of Rotel – original, mild or hot – and add tomatoes and green chiles to tomato sauce.
1⁄4 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1⁄2 cup chopped celery
2 pounds catfish fillets
1⁄2 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 teaspoon paprika
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
16 ounces tomato sauce
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put oil, onion and celery in 9x13 pan. Place fillets on top. Bake 10 minutes. Mix spices with tomato sauce and pour over fish. Bake 30-35 minutes. Serve over cooked rice.
We found this recipe in the pages of the AGFC’s Cookbook, A Celebration of Conservation. Free downloads of the entire cookbook and many other free publications are available at https://www.agfc.com/en/resources/brochures.
2 16-ounce cans stewed tomatoes
10-ounce can Rotel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
2 tablespoons salsa
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound catfish, uncooked
1 cup rice
Salt and pepper
Put first five ingredients in large skillet; cover and simmer 20 minutes until peppers and onions are tender. Add fish (in bite-size pieces) and rice; salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes or until rice is tender.
This recipe also was featured in the AGFC’s Cookbook, available at https://www.agfc.com/en/resources/brochures.