Bites at Animal Planet

25 May

What Should You Be Packin’ When You’re Going Hillybilly Handfishin’?


Keith Hoffman Reports the Night Before He Embarks on Another Handfishin’ Adventure  

hillbilly handfishin Tomorrow I fly from New York City to Oklahoma to shoot the first show of the new season of Hillbilly Handfishin’.  When I was growing up I wanted to be a doctor or fireman but never predicted I’d be the Executive Producer of a hit Animal Planet show where city slickers come from all over the world to join Skipper and Jackson (the “Hillbillies”) as they catch catfish with their bare hands and feet.  In this neck of the world, fishing poles are for sissies. 

Skipper and Jackson are two of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, but part of a visit with them always includes an intimate and up-close, painful encounter with a catfish.   Refusing to join them on one of their fishy adventures would be like refusing a home cooked meal.  It’s just not polite. 

Although I live in Brooklyn, I grew up in Ohio and spent much of my youth in Kentucky and Indiana so technically I don’t think of myself as a city slicker.  But in my day, worms did all the hard work when it came to fishing.  

During my last trip to Oklahoma, I somehow found my right foot being chomped on repeatedly by a huge catfish that seemed to have some personal vendetta against my toes.  Let me make clear that the people on TV are not faking it.  There is no way to describe the horror and thrill of this “handfishin” sensation.  It’s a little like walking an angry dog by having it hang by its teeth on to your hand. 

I regret to say I didn’t actually catch the fish.  According to an embarrassing video floating around the Animal Planet office, I finally couldn’t take it anymore and leapt out of the water while possibly pleading for my mother.  

So here I am again ... One summer later ... One year older ...

I’m packing old gym shoes, an old t-shirt, old socks and old jeans to go handfishin’.   These are clothes that will never see the city again as they will be so caked in fishy mud I’ll be too embarrassed to drop them off at the laundromat. 

And soon, I will be battling the catfish again ...

I am Captain Ahab and some catfish out there is my Moby Dick. 

The adventure begins ...


Keith Hoffman is Executive Producer for Hillybilly Handfishin’ on Animal Planet. 

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