Why Celebrate The Catfish? Because We Are The Catfish!

I recently learned that June 25th is National Catfish Day. And no, it’s not the day we celebrate pretending to be someone we’re not in order to lure an unsuspecting person into a relationship with our fictional online persona. National Catfish Day celebrates the kind of catfish found in rivers and lakes around the world.

Now I realize the idea of a “national day” isn’t anything particularly newsworthy. There are plenty of other “national days” that pop up as hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. But National Catfish Day caught my attention because it wasn’t just created by a specific company to sell its product, or by a movie studio to tout its upcoming film. No, National Catfish Day has a much more auspicious beginning. 

It came about as an official proclamation from President Ronald Reagan in 1987. Reagan wanted to give a boost to the catfish farming industry, which was steadily expanding across the U.S. He declared that farm-raised catfish “not only furnish American consumers with a tasty delicacy but also provide a nutritious, low-calorie source of protein that is also low in cholesterol.” Catfish are also rich in omega three fatty acids, B-Vitamins, and an excellent source of phosphorus. Me-ow!

For years catfish were thought of as “trash fish.” That’s because they are primarily bottom-feeders. They’ll eat anything that comes across their path as they cruise along murky river bottoms. This includes poop from all the other animals who call the water their home. In fact, when I went fishing for catfish, we used a bait affectionately called “baby shit” because it looked just like that. And the catfish LOVED it.

And that’s when I realized Americans have a lot in common with catfish. Catfish will literally eat anything, and so will we. Catfish bait frequently includes green apple bubble gum, French fries, Spam, booze-soaked meat, Ivory soap, cherry Kool-aid, Alpo canned dog food, and cocktail sausages. Honestly, I’ve tried each one of these hangover cures at least once.

Catfish also like to hang out in river holes, waiting for food to drift by. But seriously, who doesn’t?

Catfish in the south are known by awesome nicknames, like “mud cats,” “polliwogs,” “chuckleheads,” and my personal favorite, “The Goonch.”  We’ve all known our fair share of Goonches, haven’t we?

My favorite part of the Catfish Day Proclamation comes near the end: “Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 25, 1987, as National Catfish Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Appropriate ceremonies and activities indeed! Because there’s nothing more American than lazing in a shallow river and yelling at The Goonch to bring us another booze-soaked cocktail sausage.

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