A channel catfish passes the day beneath the cover of a submerged piece of driftwood. As night falls, it will leave the protected spot to search more widely for food. The catfish detects its food with a keen sense of taste; taste buds are located over the entire body and are concentrated in the barbells (“whiskers”) surrounding the mouth.
The channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is native to the central United States in the Mississippi drainage and north into the plains provinces of Canada. It has since been introduced throughout the United States and the world because of its popularity among recreational fishers and for fish farming.
Whenever and wherever I catch a channel catfish, I am transported back to my childhood, fishing with my father in the sand-bottomed Elkhorn, Platte, and Niobrara rivers of eastern Nebraska. With my hand firmly in his, he led me across the relatively shallow channels in order to set lines to catch channel catfish. When I was very young, he sometimes carried me high on his back across the deeper waters. I usually carried the bucket of bait and he carried another bucket with five “throw lines.” Each was about 15 to 20 feet long with three hooks and a heavy railroad spike tied on the end. Each line was wound neatly around a 6-inch piece of wood lath with the hooks stuck in the ends of the lath. When I was a bit older, perhaps ten years or so, and could help carry more gear, we carried and set an additional five lines that were “mine.” Freshly cut poles of sandbar willows were pushed into sandbars next to drop-offs or deep holes and the lines were tied to the bases of those poles. After baiting the hooks, each line was tossed out in a promising spot and the heavy railroad spike anchored the end. A generation earlier, his father had taught him the same methods on the same rivers. After setting the lines, we waited an hour or two before checking them; in the interim, the fish hooked themselves when they pulled against the heavy weight at the end of the lines. During the wait, I frolicked on the sandbars and fondly remember the sounds of cottonwood leaves rustling in the breeze, the gurgling sound of the water flowing around snags, and the rich, earthy smell of the life-filled river bottomland. I cannot remember my father ever failing to bring home a bountiful catfish dinner after a day of fishing like this on the river.
The inscription is a Chinese idiomatic expression that means “everything comes to those who wait.”
Size: 36 x 24 inches (2006)
Return to Gallery 8.