The Lowly “Goo”

Lyle Johnson
Lana and Ron Estilette caught this mess of catfish in Lake Verret using night crawlers for bait. They kept four of those lowly goo as well.

Bass, sac-a-lait, bream and catfish make up the top echelon of fresh water fish that are high in popularity for catching and eating. The salt water species are too many in number to name them all, but the hardhead catfish is probably on the bottom of the totem pole in that category. As undesirable as they are to most, I’m sure a few folks catch them to eat.

Choupique and garfish are highly unpopular amongst most freshwater anglers, although if handled correctly, the meat of both are highly sought after by more folks that one might think.

Of course there’s the mullet; in freshwater it’s usually caught by accident or just jumps in the boat. Take my word for it, it’s nasty tasting. The mud cat or pollywog is down on the list as well. I don’t want to leave out any of the trash fish, so there’s one left. It’s the lowly “goo.”

Back when I was a kid, my dad took us six boys fishing as he was an avid angler. We bass fished a lot but with eight kids daddy had to catch a lot of fish to feed our family of ten. Fishing for catfish was a must as they are easier to catch. They are prolific in the reproduction area; that means plenty of them to catch for eating. While fishing for catfish with trot lines, the occasional gaspergou was caught.

The old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” certainly could apply to what’s technically named the freshwater drum. But we south Louisiana anglers fondly call it the gaspergou or for short, “goo.” Everybody knows what they are.

Just about every method of fishing gives one the opportunity to catch one. Bream fishermen can catch them on a cane pole. Bass anglers catch them somewhat regularly on crank baits and folks fishing for catfish with trot lines tangle with them on a regular basis as well. Tight lining for catfish will produce a fair amount of goo, especially in the spring.

Back in the days when I was a kid folks came from all around to fish the point of Bayou Manchac in the Amite River to target them for what is called in Cajun French, courte bullion. It doesn’t sound like it looks; it’s pronounced koo-be-yon. It’s a tomato gravy, somewhat similar to spaghetti sauce, but served over rice. It was not my favorite dish mom ever cooked as I wasn’t a fan of the tomato gravy with fish.

Gaspergou courte bullion was once a popular dish and the fish has the perfect flesh for this application. The meat is white and somewhat tasteless. It sort of becomes rubbery when fried or broiled in the oven, so a gravy it just what it needs. The consistency of the flesh allows for it to be cooked down without falling apart and allows it to absorb the flavor of the gravy.

We’ve been catching lots of catfish on our pier using crawfish which is the favorite food of the goo. It’s the time of the year those fish make their annual run up the river to spawn and we’ve started to catch them regularly. They are lots of fun to catch as the average size is 2 or 3 pounds but a 10 or 12 pounder comes along now and then.

In the past as I would unhook them for release always thinking, “Man, if these things would just be good to eat; I need to give it a try.” Those passing thoughts eventually gave way to a plan to cook and eat the lowly goo.

Not a big fan of tomato gravy and rice, my idea was a brown gravy. Three or four years ago I kept three goo I caught that were between 2 and 3 pounds that were used for the trial run. I passed the idea by Deborah, my wife and she volunteered to cook them. Being the 5 star chef she is it wasn’t hard to convince me that was the route to go.

She pretty much cooked it like a crawfish stew and folks I was pleasantly surprised. The dish wasn’t just palatable, it was downright delicious. Just so my judgment of the dish wasn’t prejudiced, I enlisted two other guinea pigs. One was my son and the other was a co—worker of his. Their take was the same and they put in a request for some more.

Just to make sure the goo stew wasn’t a fluke, my next request was for a goo and andouille Alfredo sauce served over angel hair pasta. It was a home run! We’ve cooked them in crab cakes substituting the goo for the crab meat and gumbo with shrimp and andouille. The possibilities are unlimited. The meat is mild and needs to be cooked in a flavored liquid and readily absorbs the flavor.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The lowly goo once was near the bottom of my list for table fare. That’s no longer the case! Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Until next time, have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you!!

Deborah’s Goo Stew

2 to 3 lbs of gaspergou fillets cut in ½” X 1” pieces

½ cup of roux (in the jar)

Onions, bell pepper & celery to taste

1 qt of chicken stock

1 small can of diced mild ro-tel tomatoes (hot if you like the fire)

1 tblspoon of minced garlic

Sweat onions, bell pepper, garlic & celery in oil to cover bottom of pot

Add diced tomatoes and roux; simmer for a few minutes

Add chicken stock, bring to boil

Lower temperature to simmer liquid for 1 ½ hrs

Add goo and cook for ½ hour

Reduce to the consistency you like in gravy

Cook 3 cups of rice

Serves six