Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports columns

June 24, 2012

Flathead catfish: The modern-day Hoosier Jaws

Local fisherman hooks a 35-pounder on Wabash River

— Just mention flathead catfish and stories flow of rod-bending, reel-stripping, drag-screaming action.

George Hunter, a devoted cat fisherman, landed a 35-pound flathead on the Wabash River last week. The 43-inch monster was his best catch that day which also included another flathead topping out at 16 pounds along with a couple of decent blues and channels weighing between five and 10 pounds. Last year he hauled in a flathead straining the scales at 51 pounds.

“It took me about 20 minutes to land the biggest one,” Hunter explained about his recent catch. “It always seems a lot longer when it’s happening.” On that particular day he was using stiff rods married to medium sized spinning reels spooled with 50-pound spider wire. His bait was live bluegills. Circle hooks seem to be the rage with cat fishermen, mainly because they tend not to gut hook fish.

For Hunter, nothing beats setting the hook then watching his heavy action rod double over under the throbbing strain of a heavy fish. “I’m not sure who hooked who,” Hunter said with a laugh. “I caught my first really big flathead 20 years ago and have been addicted ever since.” In Indiana there is nothing more powerful than a huge flathead.

Retired Kokomo police officer Jim Cook is another who spends countless hours fishing for flatheads. “There’s nothing like tying into a 40, 50 or 60 pound fish,” he explained.

There is a certain art to consistently catching these monsters. Fishing for them is a hunt, a game of strategy. Patience is an absolute necessity. I used to think night was the best time to fish but Hunter says most of his giants were caught in early morning or before sundown. Some anglers say you can catch big catfish anytime, but the truth is most come when the sun’s angle is low on the horizon.

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