Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced recently that a 13-year-old angler from Alabama caught the new state record for flathead catfish this week. Charles Patchen was with his mother and stepfather, Jeanette and Bryan Atwell, when he reeled in a massive 63.8-pound flathead catfish from the Chattahoochee River on May 15. The fish beat the previous record by almost 10 pounds.
“I was so tired after reeling it in that I fell back into the boat to rest,” Patchen said. “But I’m glad my mom made me go fishing that day because now I am the catfish master!”
The young angler had originally intended to catch some bream but halfway through the morning, the fish stopped biting. Patchen’s stepfather suspected that a larger fish was scaring off the bream, so they decided to switch from using minnows as bait to bluegill. Sure enough, that worked like a charm. The catfish felt so heavy on the other end of the line that Patchen initially thought it had been snagged on a rock.
“I grabbed the pole from him, gave it a couple tugs and the fish took off,” said Bryan Atwell. “I handed the pole back to Charles and said, ‘GET ‘EM!’”
Easier said than done. Patchen had some difficulty fighting the massive flathead on his Zebco 33 reel with a 14-pound-test line, but after 2 hours of battle, he was able to land the fish. The very next day, a FWC biologist certified the flathead as the new state record. Patchen’s fish measured 48.03 inches in total length, with a girth of 35.43 inches. The previous record flathead catfish was caught by James Auston Jr. on the Yellow River in 2011. That fish weighed just over 55 pounds.
“Charles’ flathead catfish is a great catch to add to our state records — and caught on a 14-pound-test line, by a 13-year-old at that! Just one more reason why Florida is the ‘Fishing Capital of the World,’” Tom Champeau, director of the FWC Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, said in a press release.
It’s certainly an accomplishment that this young angler will remember for a very long time.
Images courtesy Florida FWC