His little boat shook and moved left and right when he dropped that humongous animal on the wooden deck. That was undoubtedly the biggest piece of fish he had ever caught in his lifetime.
He admired it for a minute. It had been a struggle, and he had even been close to risking his life. But when he looked inside the fish’s mouth, he was struck with awe and horror. Now he understood it all.
The protagonist in this story is a man named Eugene Cronley, an aficionado fisherman from Brandon, Mississippi. He had been catfishing for years. Fishing was always a hobby of his, but after retiring, he devoted himself to one specific type of catch.
He enjoyed fishing pieces that he could cook and sell to restaurants or fishmongers around the area. But there was something about catching a catfish that made the challenge a lot more stimulating.
Catfish are not particularly valued for their taste. Their meat can cost around 3 dollars per pound, but that’s only when they are young and small.
As they grow, their flesh gets fatty, loses its good flavor, and it can absorb many harmful and toxic chemicals from the waters where they leave. However, there’s something about big, old catfish that makes them a very sought-after piece by many recreational fishermen.
They’re considered one of the most difficult pieces to catch. They’re fierce, they’re big, they’re heavy, and they can become very aggressive and dangerous if they feel threatened.
For this reason, many sports fishermen dream of being able to catch the biggest, heaviest and meanest catfish around. It’s a challenge to them, and a chance to show themselves what they’re capable of. But sometimes, things can get ugly.
Catfish have spines and stingers on fins on top of and on the underside of their bodies; and sometimes, these can be charged with poison.
It’s not unusual for fishermen to get stung by these; the venom can cause a very annoying rash, infections, and lasting damage to the skin. And that’s not all: it gets worse.
Sometimes, trying to compete and overcome the fierceness of this mean beast that roams around the depths of our lakes can be dangerous.
If the catfish is too strong, heavy, or big, it can drag down into the water whoever is trying to take it out. Some come out badly injured from their attempt of taming and catching one of these. Some have even died.
Catfishing can be especially dangerous if one goes alone; the risk of getting dragged down and even drowning is even higher if you have no one to help you in case the catch is too big.
Eugene Cronley was a reserved man who liked to pursue his hobby in solitude. But that day, he would regret not having brought someone else with him.
He had never had any problem or difficult time catfishing until then. He knew the waters of the Mississippi like the palm of his hand. And even though one can find wild turtles and alligators there, he wasn’t scared.
But when he faced the titanic catfish that would become the catch of his life, it made him think that maybe he had made a mistake. He should never have ventured into those waters alone.
It took a while before the beast that would test Eugene’s ability as a fisherman came around. He had already spent two hours sitting in his boat, calmly roaming around the Mississippi.
He had caught a trout. That was nice, but it wasn’t what he was looking for. However, sometimes you must be careful what you wish for.
After a couple of hours, he felt it: some big fish had bit the bait. Eugene’s boat shook left and right. By the look of things, it was a heavy and strong one.
Eugene pulled his rod, tensing all his muscles and using all his strength to get that beast out of the water. It took him almost one hour; but eventually, he managed to bring that humongous animal out of the water and drop it on his boat. That’s when he noticed something.
The catfish had something inside its mouth, aside from Eugene’s hook. He couldn’t tell clearly what it was. The fish was still alive and kept its mouth half-closed.
Eugene grabbed its head and carefully tried to open the catfish’s mouth fully, trying not to get bit. And what he saw left him bewildered to no end.
The catfish had an alligator foot inside its mouth, with the claws and everything! It looked like it had been ripped off recently; the wound was still fresh.
Maybe he had found it somewhere deep in the river. But Eugene thought of the chance that it might have even bitten off an alligator’s foot by itself. Could that even be possible?
It didn’t seem very likely, but who knows? The catfish was bigger and stronger than anything Eugene had ever seen before. It had almost dragged him down into the water.
It looked more like a monster than like something you would expect to find in a river. And when he informed the local authorities about the freak of nature he had just caught, he was in for another surprise.
Its weight was 131 pounds, which is almost 60 kilograms; its size was 16.6 inches long and 41 inches of girth, or 1.4 and 1.04 meters. That made the world record for the biggest catfish ever seen!
That made Eugene feel elated. It was the greatest accomplishment as a fisherman that he could have ever dreamed of. However, it didn’t come easy.
“We had to untie the boat and float down the river,” Cronley told the media. “I couldn’t move him. I’d pull on him and take in a foot of line and he’d pull and take 10 ft. I just sat there like I was hung up.”
“It is truly a fish of a lifetime,” he said, adding, “He is a monster.” He truly has reasons to feel proud of his catch. But was the catfish big and strong enough to really rip off an alligator’s foot?