Road Trip: Henderson, KY is catfish country, but that's not all

10/01/2016 10:11 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

Henderson, KY and catfishing go together like bread and butter. The downtown area of Henderson, KY offers a picturesque setting for friends and family and the Ohio River offers a catfish fishery that anglers yearn for.

The 2016 Cabela's King Kat Northern Championship chose Henderson as the site of their Classic competition and the fans and the anglers were not disappointed. Four-time Cabela's King Kat Angler of the Year, Carl Morris Jr., was fishing with his partner Rob Parsons when he hooked a 77.18 pound monster Ohio River blue catfish.

Anglers like Morris and Parsons seemed to always have the ability to catch big fish, but it helps to have a fishery like that present in the Henderson area. Morris’s big blue won him the Big Kat honors for Cabela's Northern Championship.

Morris and Parsons bag a two-day total of 210.36 pounds to claim the championship. Their weight was the only one to break the 200 pound mark but there were plenty more heavy weights that came to the scales.

Other evidence of the great fishery of the Ohio River near Henderson came from other anglers in the tournament as the next 19 teams broke the 100 pound mark.

Nathan Weathers and Andy Carter claimed the second place spot with a total weight of 166.64 pounds. Aaron Wheatley and Rusty Morris nailed down the third spot with 157.22 pounds. Dale and Mathew Kerns placed fourth with 149.20 pounds and Scott Cress and Carl Crone pulled down the fifth place spot with 140.02 pounds.

These heavy bags continued through 20th place were Ken Lewis and Elzie Randolph were the last team to break 100 pounds with their two-day weight of 100.34 pounds. Out of a total of 50 teams fishing the tournament only 3 teams came away without fish. Those tournament results are an amazing testimonial to the great catfishing found around Henderson, KY on the Ohio River.

Tournament anglers were quick to praise the fishery, but they also praised the town. “The people there in Henderson were really nice,” commented tournament angler Larry Muse. “They were very interested in what we were doing. We felt right at home.”

Jennifer King agreed. She fished the tournament with her husband Wayne and son Conner. “Henderson is a very nice city,” said Jennifer. “The tournament was obviously well advertised and supported because we had a great crowded at weight in.”

She also noticed the facilities and the people. “Henderson has a very nice boat ramp for large tournaments like Cabela's. I have lots of family that lives there so my aunt was at the tournament. I talked with the couple that was selling barbecue out of the red wagon. Their food was very good and they were very friendly people,” concluded Jennifer.

Henderson is a catfish friendly town for sure, but it offers much more than the fishing. One of its claims to fame connects to noted ornithologist, John James Audubon. You might even say that Audubon is the butter on the bread that pulls this Kentucky town together in sync with nature.

Audubon chose Henderson in the early 1800s as a place to paint and study birds. Well, at least he ended up painting and studying birds. He actually arrived in Henderson on a flatboat in 1810 to establish a retail dry goods business. At that time his painting was more of a hobby.

Audubon's interest in birds outstripped his interest in business and when hard times hit he ended up in jail for bankruptcy after a saw mill he built on the banks of the Ohio River failed. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, “the rest is history.”

The Audubon Sculpture Walking Tour leads visitors through old downtown Henderson. The tour is an example of his influence and it commemorates the work of Henderson’s most famous resident. Visitors can stroll from spot to spot and view bronze sculptures that portray paintings by Audubon. Louisville sculptor Raymond Graf created the sculptures to depict Audubon paintings in three dimensions. It was part of a project to bring public art to the community of Henderson while recognizing the town’s connection to the famous Audubon.

The Henderson County Tourism Commission showcases the relationship the city has with Audubon through the use of a bird feather as their logo. “The feather is kind of a multiple thing,” explained Kyle Hittner, Executive Director of the Tourism Commission.

“The feather has been around a long time and it means a lot of things, just as Henderson is a lot of things. It is on the Ohio River with an historic downtown. It has all these great parks and other great attractions. But, the one thing that ties it all together is the feather which represents the history of John James Audubon. It is the abundance of nature that is in Henderson that is the reason behind the feather.”

A Kentucky State Park on the northern side of Henderson features the Audubon name. John James Audubon State Park offers yet another connection for residents and visitors to be one with nature. The park offers cottages, camping, a museum and nature center, golf, hiking trails, fishing, picnicking and other recreational activities. The park is but one of numerous attractions available in and around Henderson.

When it comes to eating it is hard to know where to start. However, from personal experience I can highly recommend The Cake Stand, Tom's Market, and the Stone Honey Farm Market and Cafe. These three eateries are prime examples of the good food you can find in Henderson.

I use The Cake Stand to satisfy my sweet tooth with some of the best muffins you can ever imagine. The story behind The Cake Stand and Deena, the proprietor, is a story of the American Dream. Deena dreamed of having her own bakery since childhood and now it is a reality. The muffins and other items are baked with love and deliver a taste punch that is nothing short of wonderful. They are something you won't soon forget.

I was introduced to Tom's Market through his mobile BBQ stand that was set up for a festival in the downtown park on the day of a catfish tournament a couple years ago. It was a little hard to choose from the scrumptious sounding items on his menu, but I finally decide on a Slaw-Burger. Tom starts with a kaiser roll and adds a 1/3 pound of 81% lean pork burger that he cooks to perfection on the grill. He adds his own secret dry rub with BBQ sauce over that. Then he adds pulled pork and tops it off with sweet and sour slaw. Delicious! I had one the first time I visited Henderson and I must admit to having another when I went back in 2016.

Last but not least is the Stone Honey Farm Market and Cafe. When you walk in the door you might think you are in farmers market, because of all the fresh produce around. However, take a turn to the left and you end up in a dining room with a view of the river. Breakfast is served from 6 am until 10 am and that's what attracted me to the cafe. They have all the traditional county breakfasts you desire, including my favorite, patty sausage and grits.

They also serve lunch from 11 am to 2 pm with a menu that's pure country. How about some homemade beef pot roast w/potatoes, carrots, onions and celery? Other sides to choose from vary from day to day but include home cooked treats like baked apple slices, corn and Lima beans, fresh squash casserole and sweet potatoes w/pineapple. What can I say, it is pretty hard to go wrong. You can find their daily specials on their Facebook page.

There are many, many more places to eat that are just as good and you can find them with a little effort. We concentrated on the downtown area because of its proximity to the river and the ambiance that goes with it. After a downtown meal you can take a stroll in the park along the river to work off a few calories.

Each time I visited Henderson it was because of a catfish tournament. Each time the fishing exceeded my expectations. More than that, however, is the good vibes I get from the atmosphere and the friendliness of the city. It is one of those cities that oozes southern hospitality. You can't help but want to go back again.

For more information on Henderson visit the website at http://www.hendersonky.org.

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