Ocmulgee River Flathead A State-Record Class Fish

A limb-line catch won't qualify for state-record status, but it's certainly worth talking about.

John N. Felsher | September 2, 2022

Blake McCann, of Hahira, with the 83-lb. Ocmulgee River flathead that bit a goldfish on a limb-line.

When someone drops a tempting live bait into any Georgia waters, one never knows what might pull on the line.

Blake McCann, of Hahira, and his crew headed to the Ocmulgee River to do a little camping. His girlfriend, Reece Erin Holtzclaw, and their friends, Hunter Guay and his wife Kayla, wanted to catch some catfish to eat. Their plan succeeded far beyond their expectations.

With evening approaching, the team set about 15 limb-lines along the river near Jacksonville. They pulled some bream from the river earlier and used some of them for bait. When the bait supply became low, they bought some goldfish to use as colorful temptations.

“It was getting late and Hunter was rebaiting the lines with goldfish we bought at a bait shop,” Blake said. “He kept grabbing smaller ones but wanted to put a big bait on the line. Since it was getting late, he finally just grabbed a goldfish about 2 to 3 inches long and put it on the line. We let the lines stay out overnight.”

They headed back to their camp on a river sandbar to dream of big fish. Sometimes, dreams do come true. They started to run the lines in the morning.

“At about 8 a.m., the first line we checked obviously had a fish on it,” Blake said. “As we pulled up to it, we could see the limb shaking. I started pulling up the line. As I was pulling on the line, I could tell it was a decent-sized fish. The fish must have been on the line fighting against that limb for quite a while because it just felt like dead weight. It didn’t fight back that much. It must have been exhausted.”

Kayla planned to net the fish but didn’t realize its size. After seeing a fleeting flash of the mottled brown, splotchy fish, Blake called Hunter to help pull the beast into the boat.

“I caught a glimpse of it and could tell it was a good fish,” Blake said. “I pulled back up on it and caught another glimpse of it but still didn’t know exactly how big it was. It went back down again but wasn’t fighting too hard. The third time I pulled it up, it broke the surface and I saw the whole fish. It was massive. We pulled it into the boat. It was a total team effort with Hunter, Kayla and Reece to catch that fish.”

The team pulled in a giant flathead catfish with a taste for small goldfish. They brought the leviathan to Ed’s Bait and Tackle in Pridgen. There, the scales read 83.22 pounds.

Ed’s Bait and Tackle in Pridgen has scales large enough to weigh the fish, and it came in at 83.22 pounds.

Since the foursome caught their giant fish on a limb-line, it doesn’t count in the state record books, but it does count as Blake’s personal best catfish. This big-mouthed whiskered river monster shatters his old personal best of about 25 pounds.

Currently, two people are tied for the state-record flathead on rod and reel at 83 pounds. Carl Sawyer caught his beast in June 2006. Jim Dieveney caught another one in July 2010. Both of the state-record flatheads came from the Altamaha River.

The Ocmulgee River, named from a combination of Native American words meaning “where the water boils up,” flows generally southeastward through Georgia for 255 miles. The Ocmulgee joins with the Oconee River to form the Altamaha near Lumber City in Telfair County.

The largest catfish ever caught in Georgia, and the largest freshwater fish in the state-record book weighed 110-lbs., 6-ozs. Tim Trone caught that big blue cat while fishing the Chattahoochee River in October 2020. Bobby Smithwick holds the record for channel catfish, a 44.75-pounder, a fish that also came from the Altamaha River in 1972.

Ocmulgee River Cats With “Catfish T”

“The line that caught the big one was the last line we baited coming back up the river to our campsite that evening and the first one we checked the next morning,” Blake said. “We also caught 10 catfish from about 8 to 20 pounds, plus the big one. When I first saw how big it was, I couldn’t believe it. I was kind of in shock. I heard of people catching 40- and 50-lb. catfish from the river. I’ve seen a couple 30- to 35-pounders, but never thought we would catch one bigger than 80 pounds. That’s pretty cool!”

It took a team to get the 83-lb. flathead in the boat.

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  1. Douglas Medlin on September 15, 2022 at 12:23 pm

    Nice Flat head
    A shame you did not let it go to keep growing it only took at least 20 years to get that size. Also large fish collect those heavy metal and pcb’s not just cats but fish like Carp and stripers why it’s best to turn them a loose. Even with the others fish over 10 pounds it not recommended to eat more than 1/2 once a week on the Okmulgee, Oconee or the Altamaha.

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