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‘Holy Moly!’ Massive Flathead Caught on Trotline Is Just Shy of State Record

May 30, 2024 - Blog

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation announced Tuesday that one of the biggest flathead catfish ever recorded in the state had been caught on a trotline. In the accompanying photo, resident angler Bradly Courtright stands in a truck bed and holds up the massive catfish that he pulled from Pine Creek Reservoir on May 13.

“I’ve caught some big catfish over 50 pounds,” Courtright tells Outdoor Life. “But this was the biggest I’d ever seen.”

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Officials with ODWC say it’s the largest flathead ever taken from Pine Creek Reservoir, a 3,500-acre lake in the southeast corner of the state. If Courtright would have caught the fish on a rod-and-reel, it would’ve crushed the Oklahoma state record by nearly 20 pounds. But it was just 11 pounds shy of the standing state record in the “unrestricted” division, which includes fish caught with trotlines, as well as by bowfishing and any other legal means. That title still belongs to a 106-pounder, which was also caught on a trotline and pulled from Wister Lake in 1977. Even so, it’s a remarkable fish.

Courtright, 57, says he’d gone out to the lake by himself late in the day on May 12 to set his trotline. Using 25 individual 7/0 circle hooks, he ran the line in 14-16 feet of water and tied it off to a stump at each end. He baited each hook with green sunfish, which he calls goggle eyes.

Courtright says he tried to keep the fish wet but it died in transit. Photo courtesy Bradly Courtright

“I got back on the water alone the next morning and started checking the lines. I’d caught a small catfish, then knew a much bigger fish was on the next bait up the line,” says Courtright, who fishes out of a 17-foot jon boat. “When I yanked on the line with the bigger fish it about pulled me over the side of the boat. I said, ‘Holy Moly!’ Then I saw it swirl in the water, and I knew the fish was over 80 pounds.”

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Courtright hauled on the line and the big flathead pulled back. The tug-of-war lasted for a short while before Courtright managed to muscle the fish up beside his boat. But he had no gaff, and his net was too small for the giant fish.

“His head came up, and I grabbed him and wrangled him over the side and into my boat.”

The massive flathead catfish lies in the bottom of Coutright’s boat and next to a small channel cat for scale. Photo courtesy Bradly Courtright

Courtright didn’t have a live well or any other way to keep the catfish alive. He put wet towels over it but the fish died in transit, he explains.

So, Courtright took the dead catfish to a country store in Ringo, where it weighed 95 pounds on a scale. Then he called ODWC fisheries biologist David Bogner, who told him that while the catfish wouldn’t qualify for a state record, it was still an impressive catch and a waterbody record.

The catfish weighed 95 pounds on the scale. Photo courtesy Bradly Courtright

Bogner says he estimates the 95-pound flathead to be at least 40 years old, but since he never saw it in person, he can’t say for sure. The catfish is now filleted and in Courtright’s freezer. He says he’ll be hosting a big fish fry in the near future.

“That one heavy flathead is big enough to feed a whole lot of people.”

The post ‘Holy Moly!’ Massive Flathead Caught on Trotline Is Just Shy of State Record appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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