103-lb. Flathead Catfish Pulled From Ocmulgee River

Brad Gill | August 28, 2009

An Ocmulgee River flathead catfish weighing 103 pounds on certified scales was caught the morning of Aug. 19. The giant Appaloosa, taken above the Highway 96 bridge in Bonaire, would have swamped the current 83-lb. state record. However, the fish was caught on a trot line, meaning it’s not eligible for WRD’s state-record status.

When Tom Head, 76, of Warner Robins, got to the last hook on his trot line, he could tell a pretty good fish was on. Tom had put an 82-lb. Ocmulgee River flathead in his boat just a few weeks before. He fishes live bream on all his trot lines.

Tom Head, 76, of Warner Robins, with his 103-lb. Ocmulgee River flathead.

“He was on the last hook over, about 12 feet from where I had my line tied,” said Tom. “I said, ‘you are a big one. I just don’t know how big.’ I got my dip net ready. I kept easing him up from the bottom. You don’t bring him up; you ease him up. If he wants to go back down, you let him go.”

When the fish got to the boat, Tom said it was too big for his dip net.

“I couldn’t pull him in the boat with one hand, so I dropped my dip net and pulled him in the boat. I lost my dip net, but I got the fish.”

Tom took the fish to Do It Best Hardware in Bonaire where the fish officially weighed 103 pounds. The fish’s head, which was nearly 16 inches wide, is being mounted for the store.

Next, Tom took the fish to WRD fisheries in Fort Valley.

“It’s the biggest catfish I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Steve Schleiger, WRD fisheries biologist.

Steve was surprised the see a giant flathead come from the Ocmuglee, instead of downstream in the Altamaha River, where there’s more water and forage. The giant flathead likely made its living eating bigger fish instead of lots of smaller ones, said Steve. While not necessarily targeting a specific type of fish, it likely ate what was available.

“Given the opportunity, a flathead of that size could conceivably eat a 5-lb. bass, or a 5-lb. sucker, for that matter,” said Steve.

After leaving Fort Valley, Tom took the fish home. It was cleaned and will later be eaten.

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