A high school student from Kingston, Tennessee may have caught the largest flathead catfish in state history, but the teen angler ultimately decided to release the fish back into the water instead of pursuing the record.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) recently shared photos from the catch, which was made back over the Memorial Day weekend in Watts Bar Lake. Troy Powers had spent the day there fishing with his father Mike and neighbor, Derrick Stafford.
“The three didn’t head for a favorite spot, but rather just fished throughout, noting and stopping at promising areas found on the fish finder,” stated the TWRA on Facebook. “They stopped the pontoon on a drop-off point that showed fish along the wall. They had netted Shad earlier in the morning and were set with plenty of bait. The older gentlemen cast towards the deep, but young Troy cast into the shallow, where the finder had only showed one fish. His instinct was great. Not long after he cast, came the hit.”
That one fish turned out to be a giant one—and one that officials estimated to be 20 years old. The anglers put the behemoth catfish on a 50-pound scale, which it immediately bottomed out, and later estimated the fish at over 100 pounds. If that is true, it would certainly overtake the state’s current record 85-pound and 15-ounce flathead, which was caught from the Hiwassee River by Larry Kaylor in 1993.
“Every time the fish ran, I held on for dear life,” Troy Powers recalled.
It took about 20 minutes for the angler to wear the fish out and bring it to the surface. After that, the catfish almost nearly swam straight into their boat.
“I wasn’t sure if he really had a big one, or if he was playing up a little one,” his dad said afterwards, but sure enough, the catfish proved to be huge.
After the intial excitement and photo-taking however, it came time to decide what to do with the massive fish. Powers, who has been a lifelong angler and is currently on his high school’s fishing team, said that his family places a high priority on releasing fish and he usually never keeps anything besides crappie.
“It was a hard decision to make,” he said. “The catfish was older than me. It felt good just to see it swim off and have a chance to grow and get bigger.”
The teen may not have his name in the record books, but it is still the fish of a lifetime. Many anglers have also taken to Facebook to congratulate Powers on his catch, and to thank him for releasing it safely.
Images courtesy Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency