Michigan State Record Catfish Thrown Back Before Verification

A person holding a fish
Jeff Pierce

For the second time this year, a potential record-breaking catfish has been thrown back into the water before being verified as a new state record. In July, an Oklahoma man threw back a 106-pound flathead that would have surely been the Texas state record before he had the fish weighed on a certified scale.

Now a man from Michigan has done the same thing.

It’s the 3rd potential record-breaking catfish that wound up somewhere other than the record books. Last month, a possible record-breaking flathead catfish in Arizona was filleted and dropped into the deep fryer before it could be certified as well.

According to Outdoor Life, Jeff Pierce, the angler who caught the fish in Michigan, had no intentions of eating his mammoth fish, though, so he didn’t feel comfortable killing it to get it weighed and measured for the record books.

He unofficially measured the fish, which checked in at 52-inches. That’s six inches longer than the current Michigan flathead record. Pierce is confident the fish weighed considerably more than the 52-pound standing record as well.

“I lift 50-pound feed sacks all the time, and that flathead catfish was much heavier, I’d estimate it at 60 pounds. 

I’ve now caught three flathead cats from that same stretch of river that was longer than the current state record. One flathead I caught last fall was 50 inches. Another last August was just over 48 inches. Both were released and were likely state records, too.”

He does most of his fishing on the lower few miles of the Saginaw River near Saginaw Bay in the Great Lake Huron. He consistently catches huge flatheads in the area, but none bigger than this most recent one.

He threw the fish back due to health concerns about eating a bottom-feeding fish that old from a waterbody like Saginaw Bay, but he said he routinely eats walleye out of the same stretch of the river, though.

“Who knows what’s on the bottom of the Saginaw River. 

That old fish may have been around and eating heavy metals, PCBs, who knows what for many years. I wasn’t going to eat it, and I sure wasn’t going to kill the fish and have it officially weighed by the state DNR only to throw it away.

And I sure wouldn’t give to someone else to eat.”

He was targeting walleye when he caught the likely record-breaking big cat. It was a pretty epic fight because he was using lightweight tackle compared to what most catfish anglers utilize. The fish battled for over 30 minutes, and then it was too big for his net, so getting it into the boat was a struggle. 

“It took me three times working it close trying to grab it before I got ahold of her with one hand, put my rod down, and grabbed her with both hands, hauling aboard my Lund boat and resting her on a towel to unhook her, shoot a few photos, and release her unharmed.

I have no question that 52-inch catfish was a Michigan state record. And it’s still living and growing back in the Saginaw River.”

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