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Orange County Itinerary

Bites to Eat

Go fish or fowl at Thai Lingo, tackle for dessert and make it an all-night cast party.

June 12, 1997|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Night catfishing season is underway! Head for Santa Ana River Lakes in Anaheim, "Home of the Super Fish," where the lakes are stocked with monster cats, some more than 50 pounds.

EARLY EVENING 1

Before dropping your line, stop in for inspiration--not to mention recipe ideas and a few bites for sure--at Thai Lingo.

Among fish entrees at the storefront restaurant across the Riverside Freeway is pla duk grob, crispy catfish with curry sauce ($7.95). Catfish also comes as part of a country curry ($6.95) with bamboo shoots, string beans, baby corn, mushroom, bell peppers and basil leaves. (Weekday lunch specials--among them pad gra pow, meat with chili, bell peppers, garlic and basil, and prig king kai, chicken and string beans in a spicy paste--include rice and soup for $3.99.)

AFTER DINNER 2

Dick Ford's on-the-fly recipe for fried catfish uses a milk marinade and instant potato bud breading. "Just like H. Salt!" said Ford, a shift manager at the River Lakes' Tackle Shop.

Angling aids at the shop include King Kat Chicken Blood Prepared Dough Catfish Bait, "the original recipe with chemosensory attractives," and Ole Whiskers Beef Blood Prepared Dough, "America's Favorite Catfish Bait" (each $3.89). PowerBait ("fish bite and won't let go!") and PowerLiver are slightly more expensive.

A handwritten note beneath Hogwild Magic Bait says, "Please do not open Hogwild in the store/Thanks, the management." Garlic- and anise-flavored marshmallows are highly recommended. GloBells (90 cents) attach to your rod, giving it a festive Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer look and allowing you to see and hear a nibble even at night.

If you don't own equipment, you can rent a rod for $7.50; $10 covers tackle and bait (including rod) for the night. You can buy everything you might need--the one thing you don't is a fishing license--but to keep expenses down, take your own lantern or flashlight, and rags and a knife if you're going to use mackerel for bait. They sell frozen mackerel, which thaws quickly, for $2.50 per fish.

NIGHT 2

Shift manager Jim Jameson of Orange recommends fresh-chunked mackerel, or a 2-to-1 ratio of mealworms and marshmallows. His preferred technique: Cast your line, let it hit bottom, then take up most of the slack until it catches on something. When you see the rod tip start bouncing, let the line go out to the count of five. Catfish have wide mouths; don't yank.

We were probably the only ones who didn't catch anything the night we went; we forgot significant parts of Jameson's instructions and didn't know that the shop will arrange for free hands-on instruction for first-timers.

"You know why you didn't catch one?" Ford asked upon our return. "I guarantee you, it's 'cause you weren't meowing."

Meanwhile, Javier Wysocki of Anaheim caught a 20.6-pound sturgeon, which complement the lakes' catfish population, along with trout, bass, bluegill, crappie and carp.

Limit for trout and catfish is five total; there's no limit on bluegill, crappie and carp. Bass are catch and release. The lakes are restocked every Friday. Most of the catfish range from 1 to 2 pounds, but there's a 60-pounder out there that nobody's caught. (The largest catfish brought in on the recent season opener was a 7.4 pounder.)

Admission for adults is $12; seniors (weekdays) and children 5 to 14, $10; under 5, free. There's no additional charges for fish caught. Most people fish from shore. Boat rentals include rowboats ($15-$25) and motorboats ($20-$40). The lake's full-moon madness schedule--you can fish until 2 a.m.--is in effect June 21, July 19, Aug. 16 and Sept. 13.

The Huck Finn Catch Out Pond, great for kids and beginners, is open weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; pond admission (waived with general admission) and all equipment is $5 per rod, and fish caught are $4 per pound.

Remember to meow!

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