Catfish are fish from a number of species that usually feature whisker-like barbels near the mouth. They are typically bottom-feeders in freshwater (although they can be trained to eat from the surface when farmed), and many species are farmed or fished for food.
Who would have known that there would actually be an entire day devoted to celebrating these fish with whiskers? Well, now is the time to not only celebrate Catfish Day but also to tell a friend about it.
Happy Catfish Day!
History of Catfish Day
Catfish Day is a day that dates back a few decades to June 25, 1987. This was when US President Ronald Reagan notably opened a presidential address by speaking about the culinary pleasures of eating catfish and farmed catfish in particular. Although this probably feels like a really strange topic for a presidential speech, there was a purpose to it. The American President then went on to explain how catfish farming was able to create both a stable income for catfish farmers as well as an affordable and healthy food source for the American people.
Catfish Day is now traditionally celebrated on the anniversary of President Reagan’s address. It is observed primarily in the United States, by preparing and eating catfish, as well as with a few catfish festivals that are hosted in various cities at different times of the year.
Although catfish is a popular dish in many regions, it is extremely popular as a breaded and fried dish in the southern parts of the US, where its popularity indirectly led to the creation of the holiday.
How to Celebrate Catfish Day
Join in on the various fun activities of Catfish Day by celebrating this creature in a variety of ways. Choose some of these ideas or come up with other creative ideas of your own:
Put Catfish on the Menu at Home
Making catfish at home can be fairly simple. Many people like to grill or fry it with a simple breading made of flour or cornmeal. But catfish doesn’t have to be boring! Try out these unique ideas for an adventurous culinary experience surrounding this fish:
- Pretzel Crusted Catfish. The pretzels in the breading bring out a unique, salty flavor that works well with the white fish.
- Blackened Catfish with Mango Avocado Salsa. A healthier way to cook catfish, instead of frying it in oil, is blackening it on the grill. Serve it with a healthy fruit salsa that brings out the natural tastiness.
- BLT Catfish Sandwiches. Catfish can have a whole new lease on life when added to a traditional bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Serve with mayonnaise or sweet chili sauce for an extra zing.
- Cajun Baked Catfish. Another healthier alternative to frying is baking catfish. And adding cajun-type spices to a cornmeal breading is simply to die for.
Head South for a Catfish Dinner
To find the best that catfish has to offer, it might be necessary to take a trip down to the southern parts of the United States, where catfish hails from. The fish is likely to be fresher and the chefs are likely to be more adept at cooking this southern specialty. Give these southern restaurants a try in celebration of Catfish Day:
- Jerry’s Catfish House, Florence, MS. Might as well start in Mississippi, where the catfish are prolific. Jerry’s is one of Florence’s oldest catfish houses and they are a well-kept secret (without any social media presence). But their catfish, hushpuppies and coleslaw are to die for.
- Johnny’s Catfish & Seafood, Shreveport, LA. Moving over to the bayou state, the owners here are generous with portions and even sell big bags of their cornmeal and flour breading for folks to make their own catfish at home.
- Paramore Too Restaurant, Blountstown, FL. Getting way down south, this restaurant might look ho-hum from the outside, but the huge portions and delicious fresh fish make it worth a visit to this cash-only restaurant.
- Catfish Kitchen, Benton, KY. A truly down-home place, this unassuming southern catfish restaurant lets guests feed the turtles in the back pond. Order the catfish fried as it is usually served or call ahead to have it baked in advance.
Join in on a Catfish Day Festival
Several American cities now have festivals known as “Catfish Days” in late July, featuring sporting events, fairs, parades, fun runs, beauty pageants and other family-friendly activities.
The “World Catfish Festival” is held in Belzoni, Mississippi, which boasts a 65-mile radius where around 60% of America’s farm-raised catfish are grown. They’ve been holding the catfish festival here annually since at least 1975. This was at least ten years before President Reagan and Congress made Catfish Day official–so Belzoni was certainly ahead of the game.
Kingsland, Georgia, another southern town has been hosting its annual outdoor festival since 1983 (often happening later in the year). Arts, crafts, live music, food vendors, a beauty pageant, a 5K fun run and more can all be participated in for this Catfish Festival. Of course, one of the most important events is a Catfish Cookoff!
Another Catfish Days celebration can be found in Wilmington, Illinois. Even though it’s located in the northern parts of the US, this farming community just southwest of Chicago has been called “Catfish Town”. Hailing back to 1976, Catfish Days was held for a decade, stopped for about 15 years, and has been back ever since. Try out a catfish dinner, enjoy live music, play volleyball, visit the flea market or join in on other local activities.
Learn a Bit About Catfish
Many people aren’t really aware of much about this ray-finned fish, like the fact that their name comes from the barbels prominent on the sides of their faces that resemble the whiskers on a cat. Other interesting facts about this nocturnal fish include:
- At least 2900 different species of catfish can be found in rivers or coastal waters on all of the continents on the planet except for Antarctica.
- Depending on species and location, a catfish in the wild could live up to 60 years. That’s quite a lifespan for a fish!
- Catfish are prolific breeders. In fact, a single catfish can lay up to 4000 eggs per pound of its body weight each year.
- Catfish are the 5th most popular fish to be eaten in the United States, and they are farmed in freshwater ponds that are only between four and six feet in depth.
Laugh Out Loud with Catfish Jokes
“Have you ever seen a cat-fish? No. I didn’t realize they could bait a hook!”
Put a smile on someone’s face and share these silly catfish jokes with friends, family or coworkers to get into the spirit of Catfish Day:
- What do you call a catfish that doesn’t want to take the bait? Standoff-fish.
- What’s the best way to communicate with a catfish? Drop it a line.
- What kind of fish chase mice? Catfish, of course.
- What did the catfish say when he posted bail? I’m off the hook!