Altamaha Flathead Ties State Record

Biologist says 83-lb. mark may not stand long.

Nick Carter | July 13, 2010

Jim Dieveney, of Screven, caught an 83-lb. flathead catfish out of the Altamaha River near Baxley that officially ties the 4-year-old state record.

On Sunday, July 11, at about 9 a.m., Jim Dieveney, of Screven, caught an 83-lb. flathead catfish out of the Altamaha River near Baxley that officially ties the 4-year-old state record.

Fishing from a dock on the bend in the river near Carter’s Bight Landing in Appling County, Jim hooked into the fish shortly after dropping a live, 6-inch bream to the bottom of a 20- to 25-foot deep hole. He was using heavy baitcasting tackle with 50-lb. test mono.

“I didn’t have it in the water five minutes when that catfish hit it,” said Jim. “I’d caught some 15- to 20-pounders out there, but I didn’t expect anything like this.”

It took 15 to 20 minutes for Jim to land the fish, and Jim got a pretty good scare during the tussle.

“There are a bunch of snags down there,” Jim said. “There was one point there when he felt like he got around a snag down there, but it came right off.”

Jim had the fish weighed on certified scales with two witnesses from DNR at Exley’s Farmers & Garden Supply in Jesup, which coincidentally was the same place the standing record was weighed in 2006. Also a coincidence, the former record holder, Carl Sawyer, is from Screven, as well. In fact, Jim’s wife, Patty, is Carl’s second cousin, said Jim.

The fish was later verified as a flathead by DNR Fisheries Biologist Tim Bonvechio. It measured 52 1/2 inches long and had a girth of 38 inches. Tim said Jim’s fish was almost 2 inches shorter than Carl’s, but that it was fatter.

“When I saw the fish, I was blown away. It was pretty exciting,” said Tim.

But the biologist said he does not think Carl’s and Jim’s tied record will stand for very long.

“I think it will be broken again within the next four or five years. We’ve had very good conditions for the fish to pack on weight,” said Tim. “These fish are gorging themselves on sunfish. They’re very healthy, and this fish was very fat and girthy.”

Jim may be holding out hope that he will become the next holder of a new state record. He said there are some big fish in the river, and he even gave his record-tying fish to DNR. Tim says it’ll have to be approved, but he’s hoping the fish will be mounted and put on display in the Go Fish Georgia Center in Perry.

“I was told Carl’s cost the state $2,500, and I didn’t want to have to come up with that kind of money to mount it,” said Jim, when asked why he gave the fish to DNR. “And, I may catch a bigger one. There are some big ones in there.”

On the subject of big fish, there was a certified 103-lb. flathead caught out of the Ocmulgee River near Bonaire last August, but it was caught on a trot line, which disqualified it from becoming a state record. Tim said testing returned on that fish indicated it was 18 years old. Flatheads are thought to live to about 30 years old, and Tim is very curious to see how old Jim’s fish is.

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