Tom Morris of Springville was telling quite a fish tale last week. The difference in his story and most other ones was that he had the fish to back it up. All 85 pounds of it!
The huge catfish spawned quite a story around Howell’s Grocery and Resort when Morris rolled in with the big whiskered rascal. After all, how many times have you seen an 85-pound fish come out of Kentucky Lake?
I started taking some measurements and found the fish to be 54-inches long with a girth of 46-inches. It was over 9-inches between the eyes! A tad bit larger than any crappie I had ever tangled with.
How did the lunker meet its demise?
“I was running my trotline up near Gray’s Landing north of the bridge where I had it out near the main river channel,” said Morris, when asked for a play-by-play description of the mammoth catch.
“Didn’t have a motor on my little 12-foot jon-boat so I paddled out there early that morning as there wasn’t any wind. The afternoon before I set out the line and baited it with turkey livers.”
“I pulled up to the end float and started going down the line and felt the huge tug,” he said. “Then, when I got close to it the fish was so strong it jerked the line out of my hand and went down. So, I went back and started over at the end of trotline.”
“Got to him again and saw how big he was and got nervous. Got the fish up toward the top again but he made a run and again jerked the line out of my hands and buried the floats.”
The landing episode began about 6:15 AM in the morning but it was a little after 7 before the big cat reluctantly came aboard. The 50-minute ordeal must have been quite a spectacle as Morris’ efforts got the attention of a pontoon passing by.
“My dip-net wasn’t near big enough as the head of the fish would hardly go in it, much less the rest of his body. I waved the pontoon over and he tossed me a bigger net and then started filming me with his video camera,” continued Morris. “He offered to help but I told him I wanted to get him up all alone as it might be a record!”
“Wasn’t much I could do with the net but by now me and the fish was both worn out,” grinned Morris, his story now drawing a crowd of listeners beneath the shade trees where the huge cat lay on ice.
“Got the boat right beside him and grabbed his gills and just kind of rolled him over in there with me. Don’t know who had who for a moment there.”
Once the fish was in the boat, the pontoon pulled Morris and his catch back to shore. He was so excited he forgot to ask the guy’s name running the pontoon.
“I headed to Hart’s Fish Market to weigh the fish where it tipped the scales at 85-pounds,” said Morris, hoping now he was about to enter the record books. The question now was it a blue or channel catfish? Many locals call them white cats but biologically speaking, TWRA fisheries division recognizes only blue, flathead, and channel catfish, in addition to the small bullheads.
Still hoping for the record, someone had called the TWRA Jackson office where they discovered the record catfish was 41-pounds. Yet that was for a channel catfish on sporting tackle and Morris’ catch was on a trotline, which came under the heading of commercial gear.
And, it was not likely a channel but most likely a blue species. And, the trotline put it in another category.
I placed a call to Henry County Wildlife Officer Steve Brewer and asked him to come correctly classify the fish and let Morris know where he stood in terms of a potential record. Brewer identified it as a blue catfish.
After returning home I checked the TWRA Website where state record fish are posted and discovered the record blue cat to beat was a 130-pounder taken on Fort Louden Lake in east Tennessee.
While Morris’ big cat didn’t make the record books it certainly put him on top of the fishing world here at Kentucky Lake. The folks around Howell’s Grocery will talk about the big catch for years to come.
Up to that time his largest catch had been a 20-pound catfish on his trotlines.
The 43-year old angler who moved here more than two years ago from Memphis has the best fish tale I’ve heard. And, while this story is bound to bring on some tales of yesteryear, it’s the biggest fish I’ve ever seen out of Kentucky Lake.
Morris was just fishing for the fun of it and says he doesn’t commercial fish.
It was just another day on the lake but this time the big one didn’t get away. And, for Morris it’s his record catch, record book entry or not!
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