YAZOO, MS (WLBT) - Down a narrow Delta road, you’ll find a well-oiled operation at Simmons Catfish.
“We try to run approximately 75,000 pounds of fish daily, five days a week,” explains founder Harry Simmons’ son-in-law Andy Prosser who is in charge of plant management. “So, we’re looking in the 20 million pound range if we keep that up.”
Simmons Catfish started in 1982 and has steadily grown its presence in the small town.
“In Yazoo County, I can say that we’re one of the highest known people in the county hiring local people," said Prosser. “We’re a local company, run by local people, family business and we think it’s very important that everybody buys in our area to a family business because we create a quality product.”
An early morning trip to the catfish ponds with bundled workers reveals one of the first steps.
“We have about 70 ponds that we actually harvest every year and there’s about three crops per pond,” noted Prosser. “So, we have plenty of fish to do orders that we need all for the plant and for our customers.”
Nets were stretched across the pond the day before and the team scooped catfish out by the net-full. Each one is then released into water tanks on the back of the truck.
They’ll be delivered to the plant alive. And the plant is where you find the majority of Simmons’ employees.
“We have approximately 200 employees from the farm to the processing plant,” described Prosser. “A lot of these people are just like us. They’ve worked here a long time. It’s a family business for them too where their sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers. It’s been a generational business here in Yazoo County to have that type of business and these type of quality employees.”
They do it all there. They skin them, some by machine and other with the help of workers, depending on the size. It’s the same scenario for cutting them down to size. A filet machine takes care of some, but take one step up and you’ll see a line of some of the fastest fileters you’ll ever meet.
Simmons doesn’t stop the processing there. The products are in high demand. If the fish have a local stop, they’ll be measured out and put on ice. Others go through a flash freezing. They drop down to perfectly weighed boxes for a longer trip through the country.
“It usually takes us an hour to an hour and 20 minutes to process a fish to pack out,” added Prosser. “Our process is very streamlined. We take pride in what we do to create a quality product. But it doesn’t take much time to get a finished product into a truck and into a business whether you’re local or across the country.”
With most of their employees having worked there 15 years or more, the close-knit working relationship extends well beyond the Simmons family.
If all this catfish talk got you in the mood for a yummy fish dinner, check out Mississippi Weekend for Simmons family recipes HERE.