Record Ohio Catfish Catch
by Robbie Robinson
The night of June 14, 1997 started like many others for Don Wise and I. We took our boats up the lake and set our gear on the bank at a spot we thought we might find flathead catfish. It took about an hour to set our lines out. We baited our saltwater rods and reels with big goldfish. The baits ranged from 5 to 10 inch long goldfish. We placed them with our boat and trolling motor. Working together, Don and I placed all our baits in position. We laid the reels pointing at the baits. We checked the drags and checked that the level winds were out of gear with the clickers on.
Don declared we were ready for big cats and it was time for an icy cold beverage. He said it's beer thirty."
By the time we ate a few sandwiches and some chips it was dark. We were discussing our recent success with flatheads when the clicker on Don's level wind clicked. We went to the rod and Don flipped off the clicker and put a thumb gently on the spool.
Careful not to stand behind him I asked, "is it running?"
Don replied "Yes, but I'm waiting for more solid movement".
I heard the click as he slipped the reel in gear and with a grunt swung the big fiberglass rod back. The bend in the rod told me he had sunk the 7/0 Kahle hook solidly in a big fish. I reached back for one of our big dipnets and watched him fight the fish. Don gained line and I watched as the fish neared bank. It swirled maybe 20 feet out and I could hear the drag as the fish took line. Don whooped as the fish powered off to the right. The fish was no match for the level winds' drag and when he stopped taking line Don leaned on it and started reeling toward the bank.
As I stood ready with the net he guided him in. About 7 feet out the fish decided to run again. He went sharply left but it was apparent he was tired. Once again Don led him in and I slipped the big net under him. I lifted the fish by the hoop of the net. We have bent the handles on several huge nets and lifting fish by the hoop is now standard procedure.
As both Don and the fish gasped for breath, I demonstrated my expertise at removing hooks. As I willed the hook free, the fish clamped down on my arm. The movement of my arm to dislodge the hook also removed skin from my forearm. I congratulated Don and we put the fish on a rope behind his boat, the Shovelhead Special.
We celebrated with an icy cold beverage. We decided not to rebait the rod and Don set it back up the bank and out of the way. Although we rarely catch more than one big cat a night, we speculated that an early catch increased the possibility of another fish.
We settled down and listened to the sounds of the night. In about 2 hours we heard the sweet sound we wanted. The clicker on one of Don's bait runners was buzzing like the bait was headed for Toledo. Don locked the big spinning reel and leaned back to set the hook in one quick motion. The bow in the big spinning rod when he crossed the fishes eyes told me we were in business again.
I could hear the sizzle of the braided line Don favors as it hissed across the guides. Don was breathing hard from exertion or excitement but the fish was coming steadily in. He led it slowly over the outstretched net and we captured our second big flathead.
As I carried it up the bank, Don followed. He produced a small maglight and I asked him to hold the monster down while I removed the hook. The flathead had inhaled the 1/2 lb goldfish and the hook was deep inside. I followed the line into the fish till my fingers found the hook. My elbow was even with the fishes lips as I wiggled the barb free. The catfish was not as happy as we were about the process and clamped down on my arm and thrashed. As the hook came out I complained about losing hide. Don said he didn't feel a thing and offered a beer to help relieve pain and celebrate.
We did not get to enjoy our beers though. Another rod buzzed. We located the rod in the dark but the buzzing had stopped. I held one of my rods with the Penn out of gear. I slipped the clicker off, fearful that the fish had felt the vibration of the clicker and dropped the bait. I waited anxiously, a minute then two. Don stood nearby intent on my actions and aware that I was waiting to make sure the fish had the bait.
As I felt the steady pull of the fish as he slowly peeled line I flipped the Penn in gear and whipped the rod up and back. I felt the rod bow as the hook sank into the big fish.
As I fought the bulldog run of the fish Don whooped. "This is the first time I remember needing 2 landing nets". I slowly gained line on the fish but it's fight took it to our right. As I got it to bank Don laid the big net in the water. I pulled the big cat over the net and Don lifted the hoop with forty pounds of thrashing catfish inside. As we removed the hook we realized we had not put the other catfish on the rope yet.
Not wanting the flatheads to thrash and injure each other we put each on a separate rope. We had never caught more than 2 fish a night so we now had to cut some of Don's anchor rope to tie up fish. As we tied up the big cats we discussed our good fortune. With all the big catfish secured to the boat we again talked of our good luck. We were dizzy with success and celebrated with another beer. Our celebrations were depleting what we thought was a weeks supply of beer.
Don put another goldfish on his spinning rod. He slowly reached back and with a steady lob sent the bait out into the lake. He set he rod up and checked the bait runner. We celebrated some more and Don asked what was the most cats I had heard of in a night. I remembered a picture of Roy Hoops with 5 cats I had seen. It was taken back in 1963. As we settled back on the bank we relaxed. Some of us relaxed more than others.
At about 4 in the morning I heard one of my Penn sputter. As I went to the rod I could hear Don snoring. I waited for a solid run and set he hook. I fought the fish and as he tired I picked up the net and pulled the fish into it. I removed the hook and found another piece of rope and tied him off to the boat. When we returned to our campsite we got help from our friend Hans Raidell to hold the fish for a picture.
Left to right are Robby Robinson, Don Wise Jr. and Hans Raidell. I'm not sure of all the weights but I have a 47 lb flathead and one of the fish Don is holding is a 53 lb bruiser. The total weight of the five flatheads is 193 lbs. As far as I can determine its the largest rod and reel catch for Ohio for one night's fishing.
I never claimed to be a writer. This is about as good as I get. Considering the excitement and icy cold beverages this is a pretty good account of the night.
Editor's note: and this seems no accident either. I've added other pictures from the same writer and hope for some how-to soon.