Record 54-Pound Catfish Caught at East Texas Lake
It was a record catch at Lake Zebco in Athens when Jordan Rethmeier of Garland reeled in the big one.
Jordan and his father often fish in Lake Zebco, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center’s stocked casting pond. They’ve caught some big catfish, but Saturday, March 16, produced the biggest yet, a new water body record blue catfish.
Jordan reeled in a 54.3-pound fish that was 47 inches long and 31 inches around.
Lake Zebco covers about 1.5 acres. A stream enters one end of the pond, and fishing piers line both sides. At the opposite end the pond widens and deepens, and that’s where Jordan was fishing.
“The bait was a whole four-inch gizzard shad set two to three feet below the bobber and left to drift as the wind blew it across the pond,” he said. “I was using a heavy spinning reel with 50-lb. braided line on our standard big-fish pole that we never thought would get seriously tested by anything. We set the pole down and flipped the bail so if it got a bite the fish wouldn’t haul off with it; it’s a good idea if you want to keep your rod and reel!”
Jordan sat down to rig a trout pole, and suddenly his dad yelled, “Jordan your bobber is gone and it’s not coming back up!”
Jordan continued his story, “The fish took the bait as all the other big ones do in that pond. They grab it and start swimming off. There is no playing around with those catfish. Once they decide to eat it, they rarely if ever let go. He took off on his first run, and I felt his full power! My eyes got big when I saw the huge swirl he made on the surface of the water! My dad said he must be a good one, 15 maybe 20 pounds.
“This fish was big and fighting like it you could feel the power in every tail stroke! When he would start to get close to shore he would peel off line and head back for the middle of the pond. The difference with this fish was the endurance he had. He just would not tire out and kept peeling line whenever he would get close to the bank. There was one point when he went into a roll, and I thought I was going to lose him. When they do that it sometimes dislodges the hook. We didn’t get a look at him for quite a few minutes, but after each run, my dad kept raising his guess as to his weight, 20 to 25, another run, 30 pounds?
“Then we caught a glimpse of him and my dad just said, ‘OH MY! We may need a golf cart to haul him to the scales!’ The fight must have lasted eight minutes or more—just a tug of war with him taking line whenever he came in close and me pulling him back in afterwards. Thankfully he got tired out just before I did! I pulled one last time and got him close in, where my dad managed to grab him and pull him up on shore with my assistance since it was a bit too heavy for him alone. We both were speechless, and just knew we had a BIG one but didn’t know how big! Fortunately a TFFC staff member arrived with the golf cart to put him in, and it was off to the big scale. I was exhausted! We weighed him and measured him and couldn’t believe the numbers! 54.3 pounds, 47 inches long, and 31 inches around! All I could do was smile. We took him back to the pond and made sure he was doing OK and let him go. Truly a magnificent fish!”
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department