My worst nightmare, battered and fried

Did you ever see the show Fear Factor? It was a reality show where bikini-clad women and shirtless men would “face their fears” by competing in icky and scary challenges for $50,000.

Most of the challenges involved  eating, and some sort of swimming/underwater challenge. My brother and I really wanted to apply — most of our childhood was spent underwater, and Southalls have never entered an eating contest they haven’t won — we knew we were made for this show. Plus, my brother looks great shirtless.

As long as there were no challenges that involved me touching, holding, or looking at a live fish, we would have been fine. I am petrified of fish. And not just scary fish like a barracuda; a wind-up Nemo toy could have me running for dry land.

Last week I was sitting on the deck while the babies napped, and started tossing macaroni into the lake for the fish.

The macaroni attracted small fish, sunfish and perch. To be clear, I think sunfish and perch are horrifying and disgusting. Because of them I hate swimming close to docks. But I do enjoy feeding fish. Maybe because it makes me feel superior to them? Keep your enemies closer, you know?

After a few minutes of the macaroni feeding frenzy, I saw a huge catfish. First it was just the glint of a tail and, am I seeing things? Then I saw him in his hideous glory, those slimy whiskers, fins, and fangs. It was menacing, beastly, obtuse in size and personality, a spawn of Ursula.

I screamed.

Tom, Steve, Peggy and Lindsay had finished a card game right when I spotted the catfish, so the boys decided to go fishing.

Last summer, Lindsay’s dad had made a few fishing rods using sticks, fishing line and hooks. This is fine for Lindsay’s dad, who knows his way around a tackle box, but the Kriegers aren’t really fishermen. So with the homemade rod and no know-how, I knew exactly how this would end. Hey, boys? After FISHING WITH STICKS why don’t you try breast-feeding Berkley Grace? Then we’ll ride our unicorns over to visit the fairies in Lollipop Forest…

But then…then they started catching fish. Not the catfish, but impressive nonetheless.

Steve caught fish.

(Lindsay is so brave. She didn’t even get $50,000 to touch the fish.)

Tom caught fish.

And it wasn’t even hard, it was like they were lining up for a free round-trip to a oxygen-less lip piercing pagoda.

Meanwhile, the ladies held catfish vigil.

Whenever there was a catfish sighting, I would alert the boys by screaming.

Fishing Lesson #1: scream when you see a fish. Fish CANNOT resist screaming.

But then. Something huge took Tom’s hook.

I started screaming, and everyone else started shouting instructions. Don’t let it get away! Don’t let it break the line! Set the hook! Call the Coast Guard! Call 9-1-1!

The only calm one was Tom, and against all odds he was able to pull the beast out of the water.

Here’s a close-up of its fangs.

No way. This did not happen. Tom is holding a huge catfish. If you’re a fisherman you might have some sort of information that explains this, like maybe catfish are suicidal on Labor Day. Or maybe you hired this catfish to be caught. Or maybe there’s been a shortage of mac & cheese at the bottom of the lake.

But I’m not interested in explanations. Tom caught what might as well be a 83 lb. catfish with a stick and a piece of macaroni as bait.

We didn’t have a way to weigh it, and didn’t think to measure it, but this is probably the best, most “true” shot. Lindsay (who comes from a long line of fishermen) estimated it was 12-lbs.

Using her estimate as a starting point, I’m estimating 32 lbs. Anyone have any other (educated) estimates?

While the catfish flopped and struggled on the dock, Peggy hid behind a chair.

Oh, silly Peggy. Are you afraid of a little fish?

That’s what I might have said to her if I hadn’t been hiding behind her, hyperventilating. I’m not too proud to tell you that I shrieked the entire time. Onlookers would have thought Tom was pulling me out of the water to my death.

While Peggy hid behind the chair, I hid behind my husband.

I was very proud of him, but please keep that thing away from me.

Tom and Steve cleaned the catfish. They didn’t even have to Google instructions.

A few minutes later they brought me fresh catfish filets.

Which I battered and fried.

A fisherman and his catch.

It was…delicious. Even Caleb and Uncle David liked it.

And, if you ask me, this is what fish look like in their natural habitat.


  1. Meredith White September 21, 2012

    OK this is totally amazing. I cannot believe it was caught with a STICK!! Looks yummy, too.

  2. Tom September 21, 2012

    Props to Lindsay’s dad for making the stick that caught Gertrude.


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