DeWitt resident Kurt Houston was fishing for walleye last weekend when he received a 51 pound, 5 ounce surprise.
Kurt took his son Hunter Houston and step-son Jake Brogden out for a day of fishing, hoping to catch some walleye when he came across the 48.5-inch flathead catfish. They were fishing by the north bridge when Kurt felt a strong pull on his 20-pound test line followed by the whole fishing pole going in the water.
“The fish swallowed the bait whole,” Kurt said. “It took 20 minutes to reel it in.”
Hunter was not as happy about the big catch.
“Hunter was pretty scared of the fish,” Kurt said. “The fish was bigger than him.”
Kurt considered releasing the fish back in to the river, but decided to prepare a feast for his family instead. The big catch provided 30 pounds of meat that the family plans to enjoy soon.
While catching a 51 pound flathead catfish is quite unusual, it is still far off from the state record of 81 pounds. Kurt says a friend of his caught a 74-pound flathead before. Some of the most common fish caught in the Mississippi River are catfish, bass, bluegills and dram, according to Kirk Hansen, fisheries biologist at Bellevue Fisheries Management. Crappie and walleye are also quite common, but it depends on the area, according to Hansen.
Most of these species even come close to the size of Kurt’s catch with bass weighing 5 to 6 pounds, walleye weighing 10 pounds at the most and other species reaching 4 to 5 pounds at most.
Peak fishing season depends on the species of fish, according to Hansen. Walleye fishing is best from April through June and also in the fall. Summertime is best for reeling in a catfish. Bass fishing doesn’t have a peak, because conditions are good year round. Fishing seasons will most likely be slightly earlier this year, according to Hansen. The record high warm weather causes the fish to come out earlier.
The Iowa portion of the Mississippi River is home to more than 100 species of fish. While big catches like Kurt’s 51-pound catfish aren’t common, fishers should still be prepared for anything.
“You never know when you might catch a flathead catfish like that, an eel or a sturgeon,” Hansen said. “Sometimes you don’t know until you feel that big pull and even then you might just think your hook is caught on something.”