Sufferin’ catfish!

New skills taught, old lessons relearned (the hard way!)

Posted on Jul 31 2017 in Outdoors

Note to readers: Jack Spaulding, our longtime outdoors writer, is recuperating from complications from surgery and is unable to write his usual column. In its place, we present a syndicated column he wrote in July 2007 — but not for Electric Consumer — when he invited Electric Consumer senior editor Richard Biever and his kids to a fishing hole near his home in Moscow, Indiana.

Please keep Jack in your thoughts and prayers as he recovers.



Last weekend, my good friend Richard Biever brought his 9-year-old children, Nick and Acadia, down for a little fishing. Richard’s dilemma, like that of many infrequent anglers, was finding a location where he could hone his skills and introduce his children to fishing. He had tried several locations but had little luck actually catching fish. Not wanting his children to become bored with repeated experiences of nonproductive fishing, he was looking for a place “where we can catch some fish.” Luckily, I knew a fishing hole that fit the bill.

The pond has limited access, so, when Richard and the kids arrived Sunday afternoon, we decided to let them take turns. I was fairly certain the fish would cooperate, and we wanted to limit the possibilities of line tangles or one of the kids taking a tumble into the pond.

I baited the hook and dropped the line close to shore. It was “ladies first” as Acadia stepped up to the pond. I told her to watch for the bobber to go under, then to give the line a sharp tug and reel in the fish. She and Nick had looks of doubt of actually catching a fish, but that was to change in about 10 seconds.

No more had the tiny ripples around the bobber settled, than the bright red and white orb suddenly was yanked under. Rearing back on the rod while squealing at the top of her lungs, she began winching in a fat yellow-belly catfish.

Once the fish was on the bank, I carefully picked it up, unhooked it and showed the kids the three horns on the fish. “The horns are needle sharp, and catfish can stick you with them if you aren’t extremely careful,” I explained.

Next up was Nick — with the same results, as another fat catfish went into the bucket. Swapping back and forth, the race was on for who could catch the biggest fish.

Acadia and Nick Biever, with their dad, Electric Consumer senior editor Richard Biever, and their mess of catfish caught with Jack Spaulding’s help 10 years ago.

After studying my hook release technique, Richard began unhooking the catfish, too. At about the same time, I decided the kids should see close-up how to hold the catfish, avoid the horn and take out the hook. Picking up the wriggling fish, I called the kids over for a tutorial. “Keep your eyes on the fish,” I instructed. “If you aren’t careful …” was all I got out of my mouth as I glanced up at Nick and Acadia.

As the two focused on the fish, the slimy, slick little son-of-a-gun twisted in my hand, arched to the side and plunged a spine almost completely through the meat of my middle finger between my palm and the second knuckle. I immediately jumped to my feet, and performed a short shuffling dance, accompanied by a loud, detailed review of the catfish’s heritage and other words, as I pulled its horn out of my finger.

As I danced in pain, gritted my teeth and held my throbbing finger, I heard Nick say, “Dad, what are those words?”

“Words you might want to forget,” Richard replied.

The kids showed great concern for my well-being. Little did they know I had just been horned the worst in all my years of catfishing — but, believe me, I knew.

“I bet that really hurt, Mr. Spaulding. Is all that blood yours?” Unfortunately, the answers were “yes” and “yes.”

I picked up the catfish and began to rub the fish’s belly directly on the throbbing wound. An old fishing tale says the slime from the fish’s belly will stop the pain and reduce the swelling … and it does. Within minutes, the pain was gone and the finger only swelled to twice its size by day’s end.

All in all, it was a good day. Our total catch was 17 catfish and three bluegills. Richard got to re-fresh old fishing skills, the kids had a ball catching fish, and I was reminded to do as I say — and not to do as I did.

Jack Spaulding is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224; or email