Shannon Bardwell: Fried bream tails


Shannon Bardwell



She lifted up the spiny tail and put it in her mouth. She grinned and said it tasted just like she remembered, crispy like a potato chip.


I looked at my plate and then at Sam's. We had no tails on them, though we were happy to provide bream tails for our family. We stuck to crappie fillets.


My brother, Skip Shelton, and his lovely wife, Gwen, are visiting the Starkville area where they lived for 25 years. Gwen was a teller at the old Peoples Bank and, believe it or not, people still remember her from there. Skip said they were reminiscing about their fishing days and wondered if they could fish for "breams" and fry up a mess for dinner. He offered to clean the fish, so Sam readily agreed. It's a real treat for Sam if someone offers to clean the fish.



I pulled out two of Momma's old cane poles and Sam outfitted them with new line, hooks and a couple of corks. We couldn't think of a place that sold live bait anymore so Sam bought some jars of "maggots" down at Kmart. Just a few nights before, Sam fished off the dock and caught and released two dozen or more hand-size bream, some bluegill, some shell-crackers.


The night was gorgeous; we set out lawn chairs and readied the fish cooler to fill 'er up with the bream. Behind us, alongside the bank, small bream were bedding up. There must have been 30 of them swishing their tails over the beds. In front of the dock it was slow going until the sun tipped the trees to the west. Then we started pulling them in.


They were all small ones. I don't know where those hand-sized beauties were, but they were not to be had that night. At first Skip said that it really didn't matter since they all had tails.


Sam, realizing he was not cleaning, was quite satisfied to throw any size at all into the cooler. He did so with a grin. By the time they had about 40 or so, Skip suggested, "You can slow up on the smaller ones."


Skip was introduced to the cleaning station where he took out a filet knife and asked for a spoon. We figured it had been at least 20 years since we had seen anybody clean fish like that.


Skip, looking at his plate of bream tails, French fries and coleslaw later, said, "I don't think you could get a fresher fish dinner, 'bout an hour from lake to table." Everyone was satisfied.


The next morning Sam went out to clean up the fish frying area and discovered some critter had removed the lid from the fryer and massaged the cooking table with oil then tracked his little oily feet along the porch and down the stairs. Somebody's gotta be a party pooper.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is [email protected]



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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