New Lake Oconee Flathead Record A Family Affair

This 52 1/2-lb. catfish will make you think twice about sticking your toes in the water at Oconee.

Mike Bolton | April 29, 2022

John Burnett’s name will appear on GON’s Lake & River Records signifying his recent catch as the largest flathead catfish ever caught on Lake Oconee, but the Conyers angler says it was really a family affair.

The 52-lb., 8-oz. flathead caught on April 23 has been certified as the lake record after being seen by WRD Fisheries biologists.

John Burnett with the Lake Oconee flathead catfish record that weighed 52 1/2 pounds.

“I fish Lake Oconee quite a bit,” the retired cabinet maker said. “I was fishing across from Sugar Creek with my wife, Terri, and my grandbaby, Kinsley, who is 12. 

“When I’m fishing for catfish, I like to fish one spot for about an hour, and if I don’t get any bites, I move. We’d been sitting there and hadn’t got any bites, so I decided to reel them up. My grandbaby asked if she could reel in one of the rods and we let her. She started reeling in and she couldn’t get it in, so we figured she was hung up.

“My wife started reeling it in for her, and it wouldn’t move. She kept tugging and all-of-a-sudden, it took off. She fought the thing for about 15 minutes and finally said I’d have to do it because she was worn out.”

John then took the rod, and he was in for a 15-minute battle.

“I only had a 30-lb. leader and it kept running, so I had to keep feeding him line,” he said.

John finally muscled the big cat to the boat, and his wife netted it.

“My grandbaby saw that fish’s mouth and she said she wouldn’t ever go swimming in Lake Oconee ever again,” he said with a laugh.

The lake-record catfish fell to a 2-inch minnow that was being used for bait.

“He never pulled and let us know he had taken the bait,” John said. “He apparently ate the bait and just laid down beside it. The size of his mouth, that bait wasn’t even a snack for him.”

John is no stranger to lake records. He holds the Lake Jackson record for largemouth bass at 14-lbs., 7-ozs. He caught that bass in 1986 on a practice day of a tournament he was about to fish.

He fileted the 52-lb. catfish and said it will make a lot of good meals.

“I ate some last night,” he said. “It sure was good.”

Lake Oconee Records

Largemouth Bass 12-lbs., 14-ozs. Bill Brantley 05/14/12
Hybrid Bass 14-lbs., 4-ozs. Jan Allen Ward 04/03/91
Striped Bass 29-lbs., 14.9-ozs. Fred Worthy 05/10/96
Black Crappie 3-lbs., 12-ozs. Edward Rhodes 02/10/97
Channel Catfish 34-lbs., 8-ozs. Jonathan Clifton 05/31/98
Blue Catfish 69-lbs., 7-ozs. Wayne Tatum 09/16/16
Flathead Catfish 52-lbs., 8-ozs. John Burnett 04/23/22
White Bass 3-lbs., 6-ozs. Tony Couch 04/02/93
Longnose Gar 20-lbs., 13-ozs. Dustin Turk 10/05/19
Chain Pickerel 1-lb., 2-ozs. Terry Brice 03/05/17
Spotted Bass 5-lbs., 3.2-ozs. Austin Skinner 03/19/22
Shellcracker 1-lb., 14.56-ozs. Randy Smith 04/23/22

See all of GON’s official Georgia Lake & River Records here.

Requirements For Record Fish

• Fish must be caught legally by rod and reel in a manner consistent with state game and fish regulations.

• Catch must be weighed on accurate Georgia DOA certified scales with at least two witnesses present, who must be willing to provide their names and phone numbers so they can be contacted to verify the weighing of the fish.

• Witnesses to the weighing must be at least 18 years old, and they must not be members of the angler’s immediate family nor have a close personal relationship with the angler.

• Catch must be positively identified by qualified DNR personnel.

GON’s records are compiled and maintained by GON, to be awarded at GON’s discretion. Additional steps may be required for record consideration.

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