COACH'S CORNER: Fishing with the legend, ‘Donnie Catfish’
by Mike Wright, Cadiz Record Columnist
Jun 12, 2013 | 488 488 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Today’s column comes to you literally right off the banks of the Cumberland River. You see, I had the pleasure of going on a guided catfish trip with the one and only Donnie Tyler. To make things even better, my son Zeke is home from college and he made the trip with us. Let me tell you a few stories about Donnie and our trip. At least a couple of them are even true.

Now I am not saying that Donnie is old, but rumor has it that Cain and Abel were two of his first fishing buddies. Well, Abel just for a while. Anyway, a little history on Donnie, if I may. Donnie Tyler was born in a log cabin in the area of Trigg Furnace. His birthdate was May 19, 1941, or just a little short of six months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. A few years after Donnie was born, he was blessed with a brother, William Everitt Tyler, Jr. William would be better known as Pippy.

Being a country boy and all, it didn’t take Donnie long to develop a love for the outdoors. By the age of six, he was going along with his dad on squirrel hunting trips. At the ripe old age of 12, he was packing his own gun and doing his own hunting. During Donnie’s teen years, his daddy won a 22 rifle at the Cadiz Dime Store. Donnie and Pippy would buy a box of shells for around a nickel. Then, they would take turns throwing cans in the air and shooting them out of midair with the rifle. They soon learned to let each can reach its apex and then shoot it as soon as it started down. According to Donnie, Pippy still has that very rifle today. Donnie also recalls squirrel hunting all over the Rockcastle area with a single barrel 20 gauge Winchester shotgun that his dad bought from Gordon Gray.

Now, let me regail you with few of Donnie’s greatest hits. First, there was the time that he and Pippy were fishing for channel cats one day while on the lake in their boat. Donnie hung a big catfish and as it got near the boat, Pippy said, “Donnie, you have done caught a one-eyed catfish,” Donnie replied, “No I haven’t, the fish’s other eye is on the other side of the boat.”

Of course, Donnie tops his own story with this one. He claims to have once gone hunting with his trusty rifle. He knew where a squirrel was holed up in a den tree. Well, ole Donnie says he sat back against a distant tree and eyed the den tree. He had just taken 50 shells with him that particular day. Sure enough, before long a squirrel poked just a little of his head out of a hole several feet up the tree. Donnie fired and the squirrel ducked back in the tree. Donnie couldn’t believe he had missed. This happened 48 more times in a row. The squirrel would poke just a tiny portion of his head out of the hole, Donnie would fire and the squirrel would duck back inside the tree. Well, ole Donnie just couldn’t believe his lack of luck. I mean after all, he is a top-notch crackerjack shot. Finally, Donnie decided he had had enough and was going to check and see if maybe he had hit the squirrel with one of those shots. He went to the tree and walked around it. On the back side of the tree, he noticed a hole with a squirrel tail sticking out. He proceeded to pull on the tail and the dead squirrel came out. It had been shot right in the head. When that one came out, another tail fell out of the hole. He pulled it out with the same results. This continued until he pulled all 49 squirrels out of the tree.

Well, how about a story a little more believable? Donnie grew up fishing for carp minnows with straight pins. He would bend the straight pin and hook the carp minnow. He would have to keep a steady pull since the pins didn’t have any barb. Donnie also tied logs together to build a raft that he and Pippy could fish from. Speaking of Donnie’s ingenuity, the first bass he ever caught was from a homemade lure he made from chicken feathers.

Donnie Tyler has actually done much more than just fish and hunt all his life. Donnie farmed with his dad, worked in a factory in Henderson, worked at Hoover and since the 1960s has run a backhoe. Donnie and his wife Ivy also raised three children, Jeffery, Lisa and Jason. Donnie has served our county for five terms and 21 years as a magistrate.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. This fishing trip netted four channel cats, somewhere around 57 tales and one really good time on the river for a father, son and good friend.

OT: Pippy is a great outdoorsman in his own right. I hope to bring you some of his and Frank Freeman’s outdoors tales in the future.

Enthusiasm Makes the Difference

Mike Wright is the former head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to

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