The outdoors has special meaning to me. I caught my first fish at age 4 and shot my first duck at age 9. Nearly four decades later I still get excited when I get to spend any time outdoors. A lot has changed during that time but the anticipation and experiences are still similar and just as exciting. It’s a great place to be....Read More

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Some say lightning never strikes twice in the same place.  While I don't want to necessarily test the theory, I'm hear to tell you I wouldn't bet against it after the last couple weekends.  And here's why.

You might remember my last Blog entry highlighted a huge flathead catfish that was in the neighborhood of a few large kindergartners weight-wise.  He was big and beautiful and ultimately released as a result of being foul hooked.  I'd have likely released him anyway, but I had no choice.

So, fast forward a week to a similar fishing trip.  I was joined this time by a buddy, Jim, and my nephew, Dylan, for a morning of fishing on the same chum hole where I'd pulled Moby Flathead from the weekend prior.  It was another beautiful morning and we'd fished for a couple hours and had plenty of channel cats in the 2-6 pound range in the box and weren't going to keep any more.

I'd pitched a line out and let it set on the bottom a short distance from the boat while I worked on rigging my other rod.  I noticed that line went slack and picked it up and slowly cranked the reel handle a couple times.  I felt resistance and set the hook and the fight was on.

I turned to Jim and Dylan and said, "Surely, this isn't another big flathead, is it?"

I've caught literally thousands of channel catfish off of chum holes on several Kansas reservoirs in the last decade-plus.  I can honestly say I can't remember EVER catching a single flathead catfish during that time so the last weekend was a first.  I would be utterly shocked if this was another one.

But the fight was somewhat similar to the one the weekend prior.  My rod was doubled but this time the battle wasn't nearly as long.  I still had to switch hands with the rod a time or two after one would get tired.

The huge fish surfaced and I could immediately tell one thing was different.  It was hooked in the bottom lip!  And the next thing I could tell was it wasn't nearly as big, but still a monstrous fish on rod and reel.

I got the fish into the net and wondered aloud if my 30 pound digital scale would cover it.  I thought it might be close and it was as the display read 28 pounds, 12 ounces.   I was happy and we shot a few photos as my nephew kept saying, "Dang that thing is big!"

It was now time to determine the big fish's fate.  He wouldn't fit in the iced-down cooler I use for keeping channel cats, but I could create a make-shift stringer from some rope and tie him to the side of the boat.   Or, I could release him.

"We've got plenty of fish fillets for today," I said as I eased the big fish over the side of the boat.

He made a fast recovery and left with a big splash.  I slapped some slimy high fives with my fishing buddies and enjoyed the moment.

I'll fish again this weekend.  And if I happen to catch another big flathead I'll likely release him, too. But the next thing I'll do is head to the nearest store and purchase several lottery tickets. Because there's no way lightning strikes the same place THREE times, is there?

Friday, August 19, 2016


Okay, just to get it out of the way and beat all you internet funny folks to the punch, I'll admit it.  I'm the "ugly" one in this trio of words, despite the fact this monstrous fish had a mean-mugging face only a mother could love.  To me he was absolutely beautiful and a fine specimen of all things piscatorial.

Our chance meeting started out innocently enough and his kind was not my intended target.  I'd taken my daughter, Ashley, and her boyfriend, Jake, to a nearby reservoir for an early morning trip to chase channel catfish on a chum hole.  It was beautiful as we launched at first light and we were only a few minutes in when I caught a fat 3 1/2 pounder and tossed him in the cooler.  A short time later I felt a similar "whack" and set the hook again.

This time my rod immediately went double and under the boat and the drag screamed.  I was using a 6'6" medium-light spinning rod with a reel spooled with Berkley Trilene Big Game 15 pound test monofilament.  All of the components were taxed to the max.

I wondered aloud what I might have and figured it was a giant carp or huge blue catfish.  The battle lasted for nearly 15 minutes and I'd try to get some line back one reel turn or two at a time.  Slowly, I started to win the fight and eventually ended up swapping ends of the boat as the fish dictated the game.  

At first glimpse I saw yellow and thought I'd hooked a big carp.  But a second brief look showed a unique tail that could only belong to a flathead catfish.  When we all got a good look at the huge fish, Ashley quickly handed the net to Jake.

"I'm out!!!!" she laughed.  "That thing is huuuuugggeeeee!!!

Jake took one stab at him and the big cat soaked us with a flick of his paddle-like tail and dove back down.  The next time up Jake was able to maneuver the fish's head into the net and we hoisted him into the boat and gently placed him on the front deck.  Ashley and Jake were WAY more excited than I and marveled at the massiveness of this unique predator of the deep.  Their reaction, and the fact I even landed this fish, was the "good" part of the equation for sure.  

The "bad" part of the experience was the huge flathead was foul hooked, but just barely, and legally had to be released.  One barb on a #4 treble hook was buried in his flesh just in front of his tail fin.  It was a miracle I even landed the fish and I was shocked.  Even if the fish had been hooked legally there's a good chance I would have released it anyway, although one that size would have fed the entire office staff at work.        

We tried to weigh it but my digital scale only goes to 30 pounds and he maxed it out.  I guessed his heft at about 45 pounds but had friends with more experience with flatheads than I said he looked bigger in the photos.  Regardless, it was one of the biggest fish I'd ever caught in my life and a true giant.  

After a few photos and more hooping and hollering, mostly by Ashley and Jake, I eased the fish back over the gunnel of the boat and held it in the water for a few minutes.  It got its bearings and swam from my hand back to the depths from which it came.

"If we don't catch another fish all day this is the best fishing trip of my life," Jake said laughing.  "And I didn't even catch it!"

But we did catch more fish and a boatload of them ranging in size from 6 inches up to an 8 1/2 pound channel catfish Jake caught.  It was truly a memorable morning but the only catch of the day that will be talked about forever is that gigantic flathead.