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The Reel Truth About Catch of Giant Catfish

This wels catfish was caught on the Neckar River in Germany. Photo by Peter Merkel

As with any angling addict, I watch most every television program that relates to fishing. That includes Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters on the Animal Planet channel.

His over-the-top dramatization of stories about and encounters with “killer” fish drive me crazy, but still I watch. Seeing the people, the places, and the fish featured are worth enduring a little mental anguish, I guess.

But now it seems that the Brit’s yellow journalism --- for which his countrymen are so famous--- is infecting other outdoor media, perhaps because of his success.

Here’s what I mean: “U.K. Angler Dragged into Lake by Giant Catfish.”

That headline appears in Outdoor Hub’s June 18 Fishing News.

Makes you want to read the story, huh?

But that’s not what happened. 

Now, I like the Outdoor Hub. I read its stories often. But it misled its readers with this one.

What happened is that the angler waded into the lake to battle the 108-pound wels catfish and lost his balance a couple of times.

What he accomplished was remarkable in and of itself. His tale needed no embellishment.

He was fishing for carp with 8-pound line and a spinning rod, when the big fish struck. He fought it for two hours, wading into the water to get as close as he could to the catfish to relieve stress on his line and tackle.

And now a shameless plug:

I did much the same thing to catch a tarpon from a Costa Rica beach, while fishing for snook with light tackle. I recount that battle in an essay entitled “You Just Never Know,” which is part of my new book, Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen.

Go here to learn more about the book, including the names of others who contributed.


Good News on the Carp Front; Bad News About Zebra Mussels

There’s good news and bad news on the invasive species front.

Let’s start with the good, since that so rarely happens:

During a Great Lakes governors’ summit, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn voiced support for separating the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins as a way to keep Asian carp and other invasive species from migrating into the lakes.

“Ultimately, I think we have to separate the basins,” the governor said. “I really feel that is the ultimate solution. We have to do it.”

Quinn’s defection from the side that opposes separation, supported by commercial navigation interests, could be a tipping point toward a real solution that would save the $7.5 billion fishing industry --- unless the carp already have moved past the electric barriers. 

Almost certainly bighead and silver will not show up immediately after they enter the Great Lakes. We won’t see one here and another there. Suddenly, they just will be there in substantial numbers --- as happened with snakeheads in the Potomac River.

It’s important to remember too that these two basins were connected by man, not nature. The connection was made so that Chicago’s sewage would flow downstream, instead of contaminating its Lake Michigan water supply. Commercial navigation on the waterway developed from there.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper says this in an editorial:

Illinois political leaders, such as Quinn and former Sen. Barack Obama, have a long history of kowtowing to Chicago shipping industry cronies who oppose the surest strategy for preventing these gilled gluttons from laying waste a precious liquid asset that floats a $7.5 billion fishing industry and 800,000 jobs .

“It was Quinn who inked a deal with a Chinese meat processing plant and an Illinois fishing operation in 2010 under a "if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em" initiative that has sent more than 700 tons of the piscine palate pleasers to Asia.

“But hydrological separation remains the only true solution. Now that Quinn's on board, maybe President Obama could join him in putting the public good over political expediency.”

 *    *   *

The bad news is that zebra mussels have been found in northern Minnesota, in a lake that connects to Rainy River. That could allow them entrance into massive Lake of the Woods.

The CBC reports that an aquatic invasive species outreach liaison with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said if zebra mussels migrate to Lake of the Woods, their habit of straining out plankton could be disastrous to the sport fishery there.

“If you take out the energy in the bottom of the food chain, as you move up the food chain, there will be less energy for your walleye or lake trout,” Matt Smith said.


Is This Photo Evidence of George Perry's Record Bass?

The world-record largemouth bass that George Perry caught 81 years ago this month almost certainly wouldn’t qualify today. But back then, all he did was measure it at a Helena, Ga., grocery store and weigh it at the post office before submitting it in a Field & Stream fishing contest. No photo was required.

The 22-pound, 4-ounce fish, meanwhile, provided food for the Perry family.

But in 2006, a photo was found of a man holding a big bass, seemingly in front of the Helena post office. The man is not Perry, but many believe the bass is the one that he caught on June 2, 1932.

Now, a second photo has surfaced, and this one appears to be Perry holding the bass. It was found in a Florida barn, according to a relative of Jack Page, who fished with Perry on the day that he made his record catch.

Is this Perry’s record bass, or just another large fish that he caught? The mouth and head certainly seem gigantic, but the photo was taken at an angle that emphasizes them.

Go to the Outdoor Hub to see what Perry’s biographer, Bill Baab, has to say.

That’s the photo above this article. Remember, the bass was supposed to weigh 22 pounds, 4 ounces. Below are photos of two 13-pound bass. 

I was with Dave Burkhardt, owner of Trik Fish fishing line, when he caught the 13-8 on a crankbait at Mexico's Lake El Salto. It was so fat the it mostly just waddled to the boat, putting up little resistance.

But that's not to say that all double-digit bass don't fight. My first, weighing 12-4, put on a spectacular aerial display, despite my best efforts to keep its head down. 

Dave Burkhardt with a 13-8 largemouth caught at Mexico's Lake El Salto.

Bruce Holt of G.Loomis caught this 13-5 at El Salto.


New Book Explores Why We Go Fishing

My publisher, Norlights Press, tells me that pre-orders already are coming in for my new book, Why We Fish. It's a collection of essays exploring all of the many reasons that we go fishing.

You can read a portion of the book if you go here

I wrote most of the content, but the following people also were kind enough to contribute, and I am very grateful to them for giving this book a variety of voices in exploring why we are so passionate about angling.

1. Dave Precht is vice-president of editorial and communications for B.A.S.S. He also is a great editor and good friend.

2. As one of world’s best known and most beloved anglers, Bill Dance began his television career in 1968 on an ABC affiliate in Memphis. He was B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year three times during the 1970s, and is a member of the International Game Fish Association’s Hall of Fame. He is also a good friend.

3. Dr. Bruce Condello is a noted expert on aquaculture and private pond management. He is a frequent contributor to Pond Boss Magazine, and owns website.  He has been featured in In-Fisherman Magazine. 

4. One of the most respected women anglers, Kathy Magers was a 2005 inductee into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame and a 2002 inductee into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. She was a Bass’n Gal National Champion and once guided former President George W. Bush on a six-hour fishing trip.

5. Ken Cook is managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer and a newspaper columnist living in Georgia. He shares his name with a long-time bass pro from Oklahoma.)

6. Owner of National Bass Guide Service, Steve Chaconas  catches bass and snakeheads on the Potomac River and is a fishing friend of mine.


7. Ben Leal is an outdoor writer and program director for Recycled Fish, a conservation organization.

8. Timothy Chad Montgomery is an African-American whose life choices have been guided by his love for fishing and the desire to pass it on. A former competitive angler, he now is a vetrepreneur and works as a master baker.)

9. Teeg Stouffer is the founder and executive director of Recycled Fish, an organization that encourages conservation through stewardship.

10. Ross Gordon is president of Mystery Tackle Box. Gordon asked his thousands of followers on Facebook why they fish, and I included more than two dozen of the best responses in one of the essays.


Slobs Return to Trash Lakes

They were a little late this year, because of a cool spring. But the pigs finally have arrived.  This morning, I picked up this wad of monofilament line (above) left by one of them at a lake near my house. A litter barrel was less than 10 feet away.

Am I upset? Yes, I am. Jerks who do these types of things give anglers a bad name --- and they kill.

Think I’m exaggerating?

Awhile back, I took this photo (below) of a great blue heron that died because of entanglement in discarded fishing line.

If you haven’t already, please take Recycled Fish’s Stewardship Pledge. Following it will be good for you, anglers in general, our waters, and our wildlife.

Photo by Robert Montgomery Okay, now that I have that out of my system.

For the past couple of years, I’ve picked up trash at the access areas at a couple of lakes near my home, once the summer season starts. Mostly I pick up discarded drink containers, fast-food wrappers, and fishing line.

Now that I have Pippa, my new canine companion, she will accompany me on these cleanups. And she seems eager to help.

This morning, she picked up a used feminine hygiene product. Fortunately, I was able to grab the dangling string and pull it out of her mouth.

Ah, yes, I love the pigs.