Catching catfish on Norfolk

By Larry Dablemont
    Most all waters in the Midwest have catfish, but if you want to eat some, you should go after those in ponds, lakes or rivers that are not muddy or of substandard water quality.

     Preparing for a fish-fry event coming up this weekend in Houston, Mo., involving a class reunion, I needed some good-to-eat channel catfish so I chose Norfork Lake in North-Central Arkansas as the place to go after them. It is a clean, clear lake, and my old friend and fellow outdoor writer Jim Spencer lives there. Jim catches more catfish than any Arkansawyer I know.
    I took Michelle James with me. Michelle is the assistant publisher, and editor of my magazines, and advertising executive too. She—are you ready for this—had never been fishing in the Ozarks and had never caught a catfish. How can you rely on someone who has never caught a fish?
    Well last week she caught a bunch of them, catfish and some big bluegill as we fished an afternoon on Norfork Lake from Jim’s pontoon boat, over a hole he had baited with calf-food pellets. The first catfish she caught was between three and four pounds and Michelle was delighted. Jim netted it for her and minutes later she landed a big pan-sized bluegill.
    As I said, I can’t have an employee of mine not having fished and hunted, but then again, Michelle is compiling and editing and writing for a magazine I publish called the Journal of the Ozarks. It doesn’t deal with hunting and fishing, but with the history and people of the Ozark country. The next issue will be the 13th we have published, but I lost my editor last year and Michelle is working on the edition about to come out. If you love the Ozarks and like to read about old time stuff in the region, call my office (417-777-5227) and we’ll mail you one.
    Photos from the catfish trip on Norfork will be out soon in a picture story inside my outdoor magazine, fall issue. You can call the same number to get that magazine also.
    I paid for that fishing trip with a certain amount of continuing pain between the third and fourth finger on my right hand, where I got spined by a fiddler-sized channel catfish. Channel cat have those barbels on their sides behind the gills and they are sharp, with jagged spikes on the trailing edge. You would think, as many times as I have been skewered with those, that I would have been more careful.
    All catfishermen know that pain those barbels will inflict, and it continues. No hornet, not even a scorpion can equal it. Now there is a hole and a slight infection between my fingers and it won’t go away for a week. There must be something to what old-timers say about a poison around those spines. But it is also said that if you immediately take the slime from the body of the catfish and rub it on the wound it will subside the pain and hinder any infection.
    Some readers have asked my opinion on “climate change” and I will write a little bit on that next week or the week after. The climate is only part of the change that hurts people. People change may destroy the cities. The biggest disaster may be just that, the coming “people change.”
    Mankind may not survive in the great increasing herds we live in if we attempt to reverse what we have done. If you have climbed out on a great long limb, you just can’t saw it off. I have written about seeing what we have done to the rivers here in the Ozarks. If we can’t reverse that, what can we reverse?
    Some of my views as a naturalist that has lived close to the earth far from the great herds inside concrete and pavement for a lot of years will be upcoming. But so will the hunting and fishing and nostalgia columns readers also like. I will use your letters in my magazines, whether you agree with me or not. Just send them to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.
    I don’t live in that town, but it is where I go to get my mail, 10 or so miles away. However, if you email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., I can read your letters out here in the woods. Ain’t technology great? That’s what Grandpa told me he said when they invented the Model T! Until one of them ran into his horse!
    EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.