August is National Catfish Month

Family RV Gatherings Call for Fried Catfish!

August is National Catfish Month. Who knew? So I just had to share this old photo of my dad with his prize catfish caught on Lake Cherokee in East Texas.

Gerald Acker and Catfish

Gerald Acker caught this prize catfish on Lake Cherokee in East Texas. Probably in the 60s and probably on a trot line.

Some of my best family memories involve catfish fries with all the cousins hanging out by the lake. Usually, my dad and the uncles had caught the fish we ate, but these days, it’s easy to find fresh, U.S. farm-raised catfish at the store. (Beware of imported catfish! Just sayin’…)

Now, we can make new family memories at almost any lake, pulling our RVs and swapping stories and recipes. And while we mostly fix the traditional fried catfish in a cornmeal batter, I found a huge variety of recipes, from fried to blackened, on the U.S. catfish home page. Maybe it’s time to try something new!

Here’s a beer-batter recipe from NASCAR driver Ryan Newman.

Beer battered catfish

Photo from the U.S. Catfish website. Thank you!

1/2 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Everglade seasoning, optional
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
3/4 cup room-temperature beer
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil
1 pound U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish fillets, cut into 3 to 4 inch wide strips

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, Everglades seasoning (if using), baking powder, paprika, white and red peppers and oregano.
2. If not using Everglade seasoning, add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. Whisk in beer and egg until smooth.
4. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
5. When ready to cook: In a deep skillet or large pan, pour vegetable oil to the depth of 3 inches; heat to 375°F.
6. Stir batter and fold in catfish. When oil is hot, lift fish strips with tongs, draining excess batter; place catfish in oil several pieces at a time (do not over crowd).
7. Fry until well browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Keep warm, repeat with remaining catfish.

YIELD: About 24 pieces

(Original recipe by Jim Campbell of Griffin, Georgia)

What are some of your favorite recipes for family RV gatherings? If you have a great catfish recipe to share, we’d love to hear from you!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Fun on the Water Means Staying Safe in the Boat

Family in a boatSome memories can warm your heart like summer sunshine. And that’s true for my memories of growing up on Lake Cherokee in northeast Texas. I wouldn’t trade the good times spent running trotlines for catfish with my dad, waterskiing with friends, or buzzing across the lake in the boat to my uncle’s house for anything in the world. Growing up, my sisters and cousins and I learned how to swim almost as soon as we learned how to walk, and lakes and beaches still top our list of favorite family gathering spots (spots with RV camping, of course!)

When we planned last year’s Acker Family Reunion on Buchanan, near Austin, however, we realized that with the severe drought came some unanticipated dangers. The water levels were nearing record lows, sandbars appeared where once there had been open ski water, and in many places, submerged trees loomed just beneath the surface.

Kayaks

With the low lake levels, we chose kayaks over power boats and still made lots of great memories.

We found a great place that had RV camping as well as cabins for those who were flying in. But this time, we made a decision to leave the ski, bass, and pontoon boats at home and instead found our fun in canoes, kayaks, and swimming pools. As much as I hated to miss the time on the water, I knew I’d never be able to live with it if someone had an accident during the reunion.

Fortunately, Ackers are a flexible bunch, just happy to enjoy each other’s company whether wading in the mud or splashing in chlorine.

And now, it’s hard to believe that summertime is once again just around the corner. And even though I grew up on the water, it seems like a good time to review the safety basics. That’s what National Safe Boating Week is for, I suppose: to remind us that no amount of fun and sun is worth it if we lapse into a moment of carelessness and lose someone special.

Life jackets are really the big key. I think I’ll go make sure mine haven’t rotted over the winter. And maybe I’ll get a new one. I’ve seen some stylish ones that aren’t anything close to the clunky orange ones we had as kids.  The new ones fit great and are comfortable enough to wear all the time in the boat.

Want to join me in taking the Safe Boating Pledge?

Wading in the mud.

Wading in the mud is never a bad thing!

I’m happy to say that there’s a bit more water in the lakes now than there was this time last summer. Who knows how long it’ll last, but I’ll enjoy it while we have it! See you on the water!

What are some of your favorite lake camping spots? Let me know!