Conasauga River Blue Catfish Spits Up A Mammal

The new lake record catfish was caught before fully digesting several critters.

Brad Gill | April 5, 2019

The new Conasauga River blue catfish record would have weighed considerably more it if had have kept a bird—and an unidentified mammal—in its stomach. While being held in a tank waiting to be weighed on certified scales, the catfish spit up several critters.

Natasha Short, her husband Alan and their kids, Taylor and Destiny, decided a Saturday on the Conasauga River on March 16 would be time well spent.

“We don’t get to fish the Conasauga River as often as we would like because of it being a shallow river,” said Alan. “So with it flooded Saturday, we decided to go. We had bait caught by 12 p.m. and were at the ramp by 1:30.”

Taylor, Natasha and Destiny Short with the new Conasauga River blue cat record. The fish weighed significantly less than when it was caught since it later regurgitated a bird and some sort of mammal. Compare the fish’s gut in the picture above to the one of the bottom of the story.

Alan said the river was probably 10 or 12 feet high on the day they were fishing. They were anchored up and fishing three rods. The big fish hit a piece of cut bait on the bottom in the main river run within 10 minutes of anchoring up.

“I had a good feeling the blue cat record was about to fall the second the rod slammed,” said Alan. “It fought the entire way like big fish do. It ripped drag three or four times, hugged the bottom, went for the trees.”

By 2:10 p.m., the fish was in the boat.

“The belly looked like it had been on a gorge fest for a week. We caught another 14-pounder right after this fish and left,” said Alan.

Since it was the weekend, Alan decided he would wait until the WRD Fisheries Office in Armuchee was open on Monday.

“We kept it in a 100-gallon water trough,” said Alan. “Sunday morning I came out to see black feathers in the tank. I scooped them out, but more kept coming. I didn’t want to stress the fish, so I did not investigate immediately. Monday morning we took it to get certified at the Armuchee office. As soon as I lifted it out of the tank, I knew it lost a few pounds by its belly mass.”

The fish was weighed by WRD Fisheries Biologist Jim Hakala at 23-lbs., 14-ozs. Natasha’s fish smashed the old record, a benchmark record established at 11 pounds.

Then Alan headed back to the ramp to release the fish alive.

“We release all of our fish over 10 pounds for conservation purposes,” said Alan. “We took it back to the same boat ramp. I drained the water from the tank to investigate the black feathers. Then it got interesting. We find stuff all the time in tanks after catfish tournaments, but nothing like this. We found the skull and back half of some animal that appeared to be 3 to 5 pounds in weight. It had brown fur on the hindquarter feet that has claws. We also found the bird one-third of the way dissolved.”

They also found a fishing hook that the catfish spit up.

GON texted a picture of the animal remains over to our friends at WRD, and a panel of biologists guessed the mammal to be a muskrat, possum, squirrel or a big rat. Based on the size of the bones, let’s pray it wasn’t a rat.

Click here for the Conasauga River records, or view all of GON’s official Lake & River Records here.

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