Recently, MTB employee, avid fisherman, and ameteur chef Tim Baker took a trip down to the famed Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee. While Reelfoot is known as one of the top crappie fishing destinations in the country, their waterways are also loaded with some big ole channel and flathead cats.
Tim and his brother spent the weekend catching dozens of crappie and cats, estimating their total at over 75 fish for the entire weekend. The little ones got released, but some of the big ones were kept for dinner. Crappie and catfish are some of the tastiest of all freshwater gamefish species, and the Baker Boyz had their eyes on some catfish tacos the second they reeled one in.
Back at the lodge, the arduous task of filleting began. The first rule of filleting a fish, as any fisherman who has ever kept a fish knows, is to make sure the fish is all the way dead before you stick a knife into him, especially if that fish has barbs.
Tim brought the haul back to the lodge, and began to fillet the big one before following rule 1. Unfortunately, the fish still had one last gasp of breath left in his life, wiggled like a belly dancer and flopped off the table, right into Tim’s leg.
Minor scratch. Just a flesh wound. No big deal. That’s what we thought at first. Nope.
The barb of the catfish struck the leg at just the right angle to cut deep enough to get below the skin and into the tissue of Tim’s leg. Considering he was riding home with his brother and sibling rivalry was in full swing on this vacation, Tim went with the “suck-it-up-and-rub-some-dirt-on-it” level of treatment. As Tim tried to tough it out on the ride home, he finally had to stop and check into the nearest hospital on his way back from Tennessee when the pain became unbearable. And it’s a good thing he did.
The catfish whiskers were loaded with their distinct “venom”, and the time between initial sting and hospital treatment allowed the “venom” to spread across an infected wound so far, Tim had to get an emergency surgery to remove the infection. While catfish stings are dangerous in some extreme cases (like this one), the pain is usually tolerable. After a few days of rinsing and ibuprofen, all is back to normal.
Tim, being an experienced fisherman, was hoping for that level of treatment instead of a week long hospital stay and a scar he’ll have to explain was given to him by a dead fish for the rest of his life. All in all, we’re glad to have him back healthy, with a big catfish in the freezer and a great story to tell our readers.
There are 3 morals to this story:
1 – Catfish can be dangerous, even for the most experienced fisherman.
2 – Make sure your fish is dead before you fillet it.
3 – Tim should have told us he got bit by a snake to avoid all of the jokes at the office.
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