David Anderson set out to fish this past Saturday, knowing he didn’t have to work the following day. It was 9:00 p.m. and he invited friends to fish with him. No one accepted. Now, everyone wished they’d been there to see the 103-pound blue catfish he reeled in alone.
Mr. Anderson, from Hamilton County, likes fishing after boating activity calms down on the water. He said, “Fishing is more than catching for me. It’s my church.
It’s my go-to place. It’s my get-away, where I gather my thoughts.”
He set out with his 7-medium action, Shakespeare rod with a Quantum HD 40 spinning reel. The spinning reel had 12-pound monofilament line. His hook was a number 2, octopus circle, baited with a nightcrawler. As he walked to the bank of Suck Creek on Nickajack Reservoir, he thought he might land something, like the 60-pound catfish he hooked Memorial Day weekend.
Mr. Anderson chatted on his phone with a friend and watched the line in the water. He had a bite and the line broke. He expressed frustration over not changing out his line after catching the 60 pounder. His friend suggested, “Maybe there’s another river monster waiting on you.”
Mr. Anderson’s pole was lodged into the rocks. Around 11:45 p.m., he watched the pole as it was torn from its stronghold. He said, “It didn’t bump or tug, but literally was jerked out. I grabbed it, leaned back and let the drag out.” Knowing he had something big, he went on Facebook Live. Many friends joked with him to just “pull the fish in”.
After a long hour, the fish was closer to the bank. Mr. Anderson went into deeper water with his net, hoping to scoop the fish. He said, “I saw it roll and I saw the tail fan. I was in disbelief. I put the net under the fish, and it dropped its head and bent the net.”
Mr. Anderson knew he had to get to shallow water. He said, “It was like I was walking a dog and then it would walk me!” Finally, in shallow water, he was able to better manage the net. As he tried again to scoop the fish, the net broke completely. “I was not going to let this fish get away after the fight and I gathered both net and fish and took them to the bank.”
No stranger to heavy lifting, Anderson knew the fish weighed around a hundred pounds. Mr. Anderson said, “I stood there catching my breath thinking, this is unreal, and THIS just happened!” He took a few photos. Knowing he could be close to the state record of 112 pounds set by Robert E. Lewis on the Cumberland River in 1998, he took rope and secured the fish for the night. He commented, “I thought it was close to 100 pounds, but after the fight, I was tired and didn’t trust my judgement. I tied him off.”
Mr. Anderson reached out to TWRA early and looked for certified scales. A friend brought a certified scale early Sunday morning and the blue cat weighed in at 103 pounds. “At this point, I just wanted to let it go. You just don’t see them this big and I was concerned,” he said. He released it.
Although catfish growth rates are variable across Tennessee reservoirs, Mike Jolley, Region III Reservoir Fisheries biologist said, “A catfish this size would be at least 25 years old.”
Fishing is a favorite activity for Mr. Anderson who’s been fishing for 38 years. He shares this love with his nine-year-old son Avery. He said, “If you want your kids to talk with you, take them fishing. Fishing opens another door of communication for families and kids. It brings friends and families closer together.
Everyone at TWRA loves a good fish story. Like David Anderson, TWRA officials believe it’s about more than catching. Mike Jolley, Region III Reservoir Biologist said, “This is more than just a big fish. This near record fish illustrates the potential for many of our reservoirs across the state. Tennessee offers great fishing opportunities and we hope people are enjoying these resources."