TAWAKONI CATFISH FESTIVAL A HUGE SUCCESS Luke Clayton West Tawakoni, Texas- There are many lakes that provide great catfishing opportunities but only one has the official title of Catfish Capital of Texas. Back in 2001, the 77th Texas Legislature bestowed the title of Catfish Capital of Texas on West Tawakoni, situated right on the shores of beautiful Lake Tawakoni, about an hours drive east of Dallas. With such a prestigious title given the area and lake, its a pretty good bet at least a few of our politicians have spent time fishing Tawakonis fertile waters for whiskerfish! After serving duty recently judging the annual catfish cooking contest, held in conjunction with the Tawakoni Area Catfish Festival, with Texas State Representative Dan Flynn from District 2, I knew for sure at least one politician was savvy to just how good a catfish lake Tawakoni is! Several of the other catfish tasters were judges and mayors from local towns and, Like Flynn, they were singing the praises of fishing at Tawakoni. Photo by Luke Clayton There were a total of 22 catfish cooks competing and when the score sheets were tallied, Debbie Kriska took first place for the second consecutive year for her tasty fried catfish but I can tell you first hand there were no losers among the recipes that I tasted. Catfish fillets were prepared by methods as varied as blackening to grilling but, when all was said and done, its tough to beat golden fried catfish fillets, seasoned just right and cooked to the proper crunch level. My hat is definitely off to Mrs. Krista, she definitely knows her way around a hot cast iron skillet, peanut oil and a gas burner! The locals around Tawakoni revere their whiskerfish so much that they set aside a day to celebrate them each summer with their Tawakoni Catfish Festival. The event, now in its seventh year, draws folks from all over that come to fish the tournament, compete in the catfish cooking contest, or just listen to the great live music and mill around the many booths that are set up. Youngsters are kept busy with a casting contest and fishing for stocked catfish in the hull of an old boat filled with water. I noticed many of the cooks turned the affair into huge family fish fries. After the competition, many of them continued cooking catfish fillets for family and friends. Photo by Luke Clayton What would a Catfish Festival be without a fishing tournament? I was at the weigh in station a little before 2 pm. and was impressed with the number of contestants. The guys and gals were a bit tired and some of them sunburned but all were wearing big smiles: the fishing was good! First Place in the tournament went to James Wilcox with a 5 fish stringer that totaled 21.52 pounds. Second place went to Gailen Todd with 5 fish totaling 21.50 pounds, a VERY close second place. Todd also won the big fish prize with a 14.14 pounder. Serious trophy catfishers should take note that no giant blues were weighed in which is not uncommon for this time of year. Local catfish pros George Rule and David Hanson both agree that the period from fall through late spring is prime time for boating jumbo blue catfish. Were currently in a period that often provides non stop action on smaller channel and blue cats in the 1.5 to 10 pound range; great skillet fish. Catfish festivals are popping up all across the country, which is testament to just how popular the sport of catfishing has become and how important the catfish is to many local economies. National tournament trails sponsored by huge companies such as Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops have been a big boost to catfishing. Catfish and those that fish for them are finally receiving the respect they deserve. Look at it this way: what other fish can you name that pulls as hard on the line and taste so good when battered with cornmeal and dropped in hot cooking oil?