How do you entice fish rumored to have been fattened on human flesh into biting your hook? With beef jerky, report Drew Altizer and Clint Lauver, winners in our “So, You Think You Can Fish?” video contest.
The duo’s video, which featured their quest as U.S. Army soldiers to catch poisonous catfish while stationed in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division, was the voters’ favorite, earning 61 percent of the vote. Drew and Clint filmed themselves fishing a lake at one of Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad palaces. (The video is embedded at the bottom of this post)
The video intrigued our editorial staff as well. It’s not often you encounter a fishing video in which the hosts face such unique challenges as did Drew and Clint.
“This lake here has a special rumor going around that Saddam used to feed his fish with the remains of his victims, that he fed through a wood chipper,” Clint says in the video. “The fish here have a heightened hunger for meat, from what people say.”
Clint and Drew then head out into the night with hooks baited with beef jerky to target Stinging Catfish (Heteropneustes fossilis), a poisonous species native to parts of Asia and stocked in both Iraq and Iran.
“It’s a privilege to be here and serve our country, as well as be able to fish this rare species of catfish that most Americans don’t get a chance to fish,” Drew says.
Unique to stinging catfish, Clint explains, are two venomous glands on their pectoral fins “that enable the fish to inject poison into their victims.”
Hot temps, active fish
Fishing on camera with medium-action spinning rods, 8-pound test line, ½-oz. free-sliding weights, and 3- and 4-ought hooks baited with chunks of beef jerky and Slim Jims, Drew and Clint catch a couple of the eel-like Stinging Catfish, including one weighing in at about 2 pounds that strips a good deal of line as Drew fights it, his drag screeching in the darkness.
With daytime air temperatures reaching 107, nighttime water temps were often in the high 80s in Baghdad, Drew says, making the fish “pretty active.”
Seated in front of an American flag crossed by 4 fishing rods forming two large Xs, Drew and Clint – they call themselves Team FISH ON! – ended their video with a summation of the unique fishing excursion they documented.
“I’d say that was a pretty successful night on the water,” Clint says.
“I know I had a good time,” Drew says. “The fish weren’t biting as good as we like them to, but I’d say we did pretty good, considering we’re here in Iraq. You get pretty spoiled being able to fish your usual spots with your own gear back in the States.”
“I definitely agree with that,” Clint says.
“Remember – education, preservation and sportsmanship,” Drew concludes. “These three things alone can help preserve the sport of fishin’. Until next time – Fish on!”
The next time Clint and Drew fish together, it will be with their own gear on their usual spots – they both arrived safely back home in the States on Nov. 28. Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, they are eager to get back out on the Cape Fear River, where they learned and honed their cat-fishing skills.
“Drew and I plan to hit the water hard and tackle the North Carolina state blue-cat records and jump to the top in the tournament standings,” Clint told North American Fisherman in a December interview. “We hope to turn Team FISH ON! into a sportsman's household name and bring education, preservation and sportsmanship to an all new level.”
As of late December, neither had yet been fishing since arriving home, but Drew has been shopping for a new boat and says he will be “spending a lot of time chasing the record” after he rigs his new craft for catfishing.
“I was able to get some monster hooks from the Iraqi locals for cheap … and they are pretty well made,” he says. “Given the mild winter we’re having so far, I foresee me getting a lot of fishing in. So, things are looking good!”
For winning our “So, You Think You Can Fish?” contest, Team FISH ON! scored a waterproof, GoPro HD HERO video camera ($299 value), a personalized NAFC tournament-style fishing jersey for both Drew and Clint ($100 value, each), a huge prize pack of baits ($100 value) and a rod-and-reel combo ($200 value).
NAFC will work with Drew and Clint throughout the year to bring you more vidof their fishing excursions, tips and tactics.
First Runner-Up honors went to Jason Holmer of the Bass Utopia blog. Second Runner-Up went to Jake Didier, AKA "CarpManJake." Third Runner-Up went to Hernandez Ruffin, AKA "Big Bass Dez."
As in our popular Outstanding Catch contest, one lucky voter also wins a prize. The "So, You Think You Can Fish?" contest voter winner -- chosen by randow draw from all voters -- is Mike Robinson, of Hominy, OK.