July 2018
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Old-school Angling

Sometimes it’s best to leave the high tech tackle at home and try some traditional tried-and-true methods.

Whether you go to the Gulf Coast, a local lake or a nearby river, you’ll find people fishing with a variety of equipment and methods for catching the most fish. Some tackle is pretty inexpensive, but trying to keep up with new innovations can be hard if you are on a budget. There will always be improvements to rods, reels and baits, but taking the time to try some home-styled fishing gear can also lead to success. Cane poles, seines, poke sacks and even drinking straws can be used with excellent results.

Everyone has their cane poles and is getting ready to fish.


For several months, my son Cason had been pushing his dad Jason for a bamboo harvest to make cane poles, but Jason told him the shoots had to be just right or they wouldn’t be functional for very long. If they are too young and green, they may not be able to handle the weight of a fish and bend until they break. Bamboo that is too brown is likely to crack and break under pressure. Finally, in April, Jason and Cason decided they were just perfect for making into fishing poles.

Jason used a machete to take down 25 bamboo poles, about 12 feet long. He tied fishing line to the end of each and then added pieces of pool noodles. The noodles keep the pole afloat and also keep it from blending into the landscape so well you can’t spot it.

After Jason finished rigging the bamboo poles, he loaded them into the back of his truck.

My mom and dad happened to come for a visit and my dad noticed the load of cane poles in the truck. He said he hadn’t seen anyone use homemade bamboo rods in a long time. He used them often when he lived in Woodland and went fishing with his dad, brothers, uncle and cousins in the river. Their poles were much shorter. At about 4 feet in length, the shorter poles were better for sticking into the banks.


Jason Kirk used a machete to cut down 25 bamboo poles, each about 12 feet long, and removed the leaves.

Besides using cane poles, Dad would also fish with a seine. One or two people from the fishing group would go to the bank and stir up the fish, and the others would stay downriver to hold the seine and collect the fish as they swam away from the commotion.

After the catch, fish were put in a burlap bag and carried cross body. The fish bag could get heavy, meaning whoever toted the fish would need to be extra careful not to get weighed down if in the water.

Dad said that carrying the bag literally got his father Rolley in deep trouble back in the 1950s.

One day, Rolley was carrying the sack for the younger guys as he talked them through the process of seine fishing. His fish bag was slung over his shoulder, and he had a garden hoe to help him navigate the river.

The burlap bag of fish weighed him down tremendously. Even though he was being careful, he still stepped into a very deep hole.

Rolley had been in the U.S. Navy for over 20 years, but, ironically, he couldn’t swim. However, he knew how to hold his breath and to not panic as he sank below the surface. Each time he went down, he pushed the end of the hoe against the river bottom. Eventually he got enough leverage to push himself out of the hole and toward the bank.

Although Dad treasures his memories of fishing in Woodland with his family, he now prefers to catch fish from the safety of the shore or pier.

When fishing in the Gulf, he uses a bubble rig as a lure. Bubble rigs can be bought in some stores, but you can also make one yourself.

Dad uses a McDonald’s straw about 3-3.5 inches long on the line just above the hook. The straw gives the lure a wiggle simulating a small fish swimming along.

These photos show how my dad incorporates a straw into a bubble rig. First cut a straw to about 3-3.5 inches long. Thread the line of an assembled hook through the straw, allowing the straw to rest on the hook. Attach the line that is through the straw to the terminal end of the bubble rig, leaving enough space to allow the straw to move. Cut off the excess tag line.


He has tried other straws, but the red-and-yellow-striped ones work the best for him. These lures work well for Spanish mackerel.

Getting new fishing gear is great, but it can also get expensive. Old-time fishing methods and making your own tackle may take a little more time and effort, but not only can it be rewarding and fun, but it can also be incredibly productive. Children and grandchildren will love helping you craft the tools that will bring home your next meal.



2 pounds catfish fillets
Orange sauce
¼ cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced

In a bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Brush catfish fillets with mixture. Place fish on a lightly oiled grill about 4 inches above the coals. Grill for 5 minutes and brush frequently with orange sauce. Turn and grill for 5 minutes longer, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Delicious over rice or as a soft taco.


¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
½ cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 small bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon browning and seasoning sauce (such as Kitchen Bouquet)
¼-½ teaspoon hot sauce
2 pounds catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces OR 1-2 pounds firm white fish (such as halibut or flounder), cut into large chunks
1 cup finely chopped green onions
½ cup minced parsley
Cooked rice

In a large Dutch oven, combine flour and vegetable oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until roux is caramel-colored, about 15 minutes.

Add yellow onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Stir in chicken broth. Stir in next 10 ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

Add catfish, green onions and parsley. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove bay leaf. Serve over rice.

Note: Étouffée is traditionally made with shrimp or crawfish, but fish can also be used. This recipe can be made with catfish or white fish.


Tartar sauce and ketchup are great on fish sandwiches, but these sauces can give your fried fish some extra zest.


½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons finely chopped capers
¼ teaspoon black pepper

In a sealable container, whisk all ingredients together. Re­frigerate until ready to use.



1 Tablespoon hot sauce
16 ounces ranch salad dressing
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder

In a sealable container, whisk all ingredients together. Re­frigerate until ready to use.


1 lime, juice and zest, to taste, if available
1/3 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
½ bunch cilantro, leaves chopped

In a bowl, mix all ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.