NEW CALIFORNIA RECORD CATFISH, OR NOT

spectr17

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NEW RECORD CATFISH, OR NOT -- matthews column 1aug01

A 109-pound flathead catfish may not be a myth, but the story of it being caught just might be.

All the regular catfish anglers on the Lower Colorado River believe there are 100-plus pound flathead catfish in their favorite deep holes. In fact, many of them will swear to you on a stack of 80-pound spools of Dacron fishing line that they’ve hooked one that big and had their hooks straightened or line broken by such a bruiser. So when a story surfaced in the last couples of weeks about a 109-pounder being caught somewhere near Martinez Lake, there was a sort of universal belief that it really did happen. They knew it could, so they assumed it did. “I’d been predicting we’d have a 100-pounder,” said Ken Goodwin, a Martinez Lake Resort fishing guide, with a fair amount of dejection in his voice. “It’s just that I thought I’d be the one to catch it because I put in more water time than just about anyone around here. I’ve been dreaming of a 100-pounder and bringing it in.” Goodwin’s voice trails off. John Guth, who owns the Martinez Lake Resort, sort of started the ball rolling when he reported the 109-pounder in his weekly fishing report fax to newspaper writers throughout the region.

“I’d been in China for three weeks and when I came back, I had this newspaper clipping on my desk and people were talking about this big catfish that had been caught, so I put it in my report,” said Guth. “But now that I think about it, I never did talk to anyone who actually saw the fish.” The newspaper clipping was from an issue of Fishing and Hunting News, a twice-monthly news magazine published out of Seattle with regional editions. The photo shows an admittedly huge flathead catfish. The caption reads: “How big can your bait be? A four-inch baby carp fooled this 109-pound lower Colorado River flathead catfish for Ron Ketner of Yuma, Ariz. No one at Martinez Lake Resort, Fisher’s Landing, or any of the fishing shops in Yuma knows Ron Ketner. He isn’t listed in the local phone book. The only Ketner listing has been disconnected. And no one saw the huge fish. No one.

“I was talking to two or three of our regulars who fish Martinez every couple of days and no one knew anything about it,” said Buddy Wynn at the Sportsman’s Market in Yuma. That last part is a little odd. This is a town where 40- to 50-pound flatheads generally draw small crowds. Brad Jacobson, a fisheries manager with the Arizona Game and Fish Department in Yuma, said that the first thing most catfish anglers would have done was to trot that huge fish to the Game and Fish office and have it officially certified as the new Colorado River record (and thus state record for both California and Arizona). The current record is a 74-pounder caught in May of 1998. Based on the stories that he’d heard, Goodwin decided the fish had been caught around the 17th or 18th of July and brought in to Fisher’s Landing, also on Martinez Lake, a backwater lake on the Lower Colorado River north of Yuma. But at Fisher’s Landing, there was still more mystery, and you know stories might be degrading when they send you to the bar to find out information. But Jimmy Phipps, the night bartender at nearby Fisher’s Landing, scoffed at the report of the 109-pounder.

“Ya, I’d heard that too. I haven’t seen a picture or anything. I haven’t even talked to anyone who actually says they saw the fish. I kind of halfway doubt it myself,” said Phipps, who is quick to tell you that his personal best is a 43-pounder, and that he believes there are 100-pounders out there. “Landing one that big would be almost impossible, with the current and all that weight.” Irv Phillips, who manages the boat shop at Fisher’s where the best flathead he’s seen weighed 61 pounds, was also skeptical. “There’s been rumors flying around. I heard a guy talking about it again last night in the bar, but nobody I know has seen it.” So that leaves the picture in Fishing and Hunting News: The angler is laying down behind the fish, which looks nearly as big as the angler. But could the angler be way behind the fish? Could, as Guth noted, someone simply have done some computer magic using Photoshop? Is the angler’s smile for reasons other than catching a big catfish?

“I’ve been fishing for the 100-pounder for some time,” said Goodwin. “I know he’s out there, so I was ready to believe this. I’d come to accept it.”
His voice brightens a little with the thought that there might not have been a 109-pounder caught. That means he can still be the one who lands the first flathead on the Colorado River over 100 pounds.

Everyone knows it’s there. It’s just whether or not its been caught yet that is the question.
 

Fubar

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You know what they say. A picture is worth a thousand words.              Fubar
 
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