Louisiana catfishing seems to be a dying trade. But Aaron Cortez, 17, of Des Allemands, is standing strong against the winds of change. The Hahnville High School junior catfishes and crabs on time off from his studies.
“It seems that nobody cares for commercial catfishing anymore,” says Cortez. “The only people in Des Allemands that still do it are my parents and the elders of the community.”
Cortez says the catfish are smaller than usual this year, but more plentiful.
“Last year the average was from 15 to 30 pounds, this year it seems to be from about 3 to 10,” says the commercial fisherman.
Cortez mostly fishes catfish on bush lines and dead lines.
He says a lot of people use hoop nets to only catch small fish, because of the labor that comes along with running lines.
It is a common misconception that smaller catfish taste better than the larger catfish, according to Cortez.
“If you know how to clean the bigger cats right and properly remove the blood line, then the bigger cats will taste just as good or even better than the smaller ones,” he says.
Cortez believes that crawfish and cut eel are the most consistent bait to use when running bush lines.
But he also says he tries everything every once in a while just to stay mobile.
He mainly fishes Bayou Des Allemands towards Lake Salvador.
Cortez says he only fishes on the weekends during the spring before the spawn when catfish are most aggressive.
The teenager says knowing when to fish and what to fish with is only part of the challenge of catfishing.
Serious fishermen alsomust have polished boating skills in order to check the bush-lines without running them over or overshooting.
And they need to know, too, too, the best points and banks to fish – and this takes years to figure out.
“I have been doing this since I could walk,” says Cortez. “I have butchered the meat since I could hold a knife; it is as natural as walking to me now.”
Questions? Comments? Got a fishing or hunting tip or a story of your own to tell? Special correspondent Anthony Taylor wants to hear from you. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org … you’ll be glad you did.