In the second half of the 20th century, eager investors, from city slickers to country folks, and others poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the southern United States to build catfish farms, processing plants, and infrastructure.
Likened to the California Gold Rush of a century earlier, raising catfish was seen as a panacea for a down economy – even easy money. More than 180,000 acres of catfish ponds were built and stocked across the South, as an obliging news media served up the feel-good story like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
“Catfish Days” covers the catfish farming industry’s rough and tumble early years, before pushing into the rich Mississippi Delta and Alabama’s Black Belt region, and beyond.
Along the way, a colorful cast of characters, celebrities and politicians emerged to bask in the heyday, then quietly slipped away when ship loads of cheap, imported fish from Asia reached U.S. shores and dominated the market. Almost overnight, an industry was in full retreat, taking with it thousands of jobs from the South’s poorest regions. But the strong have survived.