Back from vacation, tons of photographs to go through, but these I had to share with you...
This is the largest fish I have ever caught on a rod and reel. We were fishing for crappie and white bass (both smaller panfish), so we were using ultralight tackle and 4 pound test line, throwing small homemade tinsel jigs (think minnow substitutes) in the shallow water on Crab Orchard Lake in southern Illinois.
At fist I thought I had a snag. Then it started moving very slowly towards deeper water. They way it was pulling made me think it was a turtle, not a fish.
AFter about 15 minutes of letting him do what he wanted to do, I slowly worked him back towards the shore. When we first got a view of him, I knew there would be no way he would make it to my net- the line would break if he did one head roll or headed into cattails.
Somehow, he did neither. Lease tried her best to land him in the net, but the shoreline was very steep and he wouldn't get close enough for her to reach him. By that time, I had a few fishermen watching what was happening, and one volunteered to slide down the bank and help. He was able to (barely) fit this Flathead catfish into my net, which I took from him and pulled this monster out of the lake. Nobody had a scale large enough to weight him (the best we could come up with was a 20 pound limit), so I can only estimate his weight at between 25- 30 pounds.
I have a few more photos to post, so maybe after seeing all of them you can get a feel for the size of this fish.
After a few quickly taken photos with the Minolta, I took him back down to the water. I worked him slowly back and forth through the water to get him breathing again, and then let go. He then rapidly headed out to the depths.
I couldn't keep him. After giving me the thrill of a 30 minute fight, and somehow not snapping my line, the line broke as I was carrying the fish up the hill. If that wasn't a sign that I should let him go to live another day, I don't know what is...