I thought that I was going to do a human interest story about an all-American country boy-type of youngster who just happened to catch the fish of a lifetime.
Little did I know that I was putting myself in the hands of a master trophy catfisherman.
Forty-four-year-old Jim Danley is a heavy equipment operator with a pipeline construction company who works all over Louisiana and Mississippi.
“You either farm or you work offshore or you work on a pipeline around here,” Danley said. “That’s your choices.
“But every chance I get, I’m fishing. My favorite is tight-lining for catfish. I got into doing it serious on the Mississippi River about 15 years ago. I fish bream and white perch, too.
“I ain’t much on bass. You know the biggest isn’t going to be but so (he motioned with his hands spread about 20 inches apart). You never know how big your fish is going to be tight-lining.”
His time on the water isn’t usually solitary.
“Bo and Lawson fish with me, but I really fish a lot with Pod,” he hooked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of Scott “Pod” Lewis. “We work together and we fish together.”
With his grizzled goatee, Lewis bears an uncanny resemblance to Nathan Bedford Forrest, the great cavalry general who fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
“We usually put up the poles and grab the guns the first of October, and hunt until February,” Danley went on. “But, I’ve caught fish in all the months.
“During high water, we use limb lines — 6 feet of nylon line and 7/0 or 8/0 hooks. We’ll bait them with cut shad or coon perch (aka slick perch or green sunfish). We hang them from the limbs of trees that line the river.”
But the rest of the year — any time that the river waters are not over the lip of its banks and into the trees — rod-and-reel fishing is productive.
This provides an extended season of many months for Danley’s favorite sport.
Danley likes big fish.
“I catch mainly blue cats and a few yellow cats,” he said. “I don’t care for channel catfish. When you start catching them, you can just as soon go to the house. That’s all you are going to catch.”
His upper lip visibly curled in disdain beneath his moustache.
“I’ll eat a few of them fresh, but I don’t put any in the freezer,” Danley said of channel cats. “Not when I can get those good blues.”
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