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  #1  
Old 03-06-2007, 10:41 AM
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Default Giant Catfish

Something's fishy in Hardin County

The debate in Tennessee over authenticity of the largest
catfish in the 'Catfish Capitol of the World' still rages on
By Taylor Wilson





Fact or fiction? You be the judge.


I'll never forget stumbling upon the wrinkled old photo that looked like something out of an old monster movie. The picture could have been titled, "The Catfish That Could Have Eaten Hardin County, Tennessee."
It was in the mid-1990s, and I was working on a story about the National Catfish Derby, an annual catfishing derby and festival held on the Tennessee River. The derby president was the first to show me the black and white photo.
"What do you think?" said the derby prez, Jay Barker.
I looked at the photo and then at Barker, who was grinning mischievously like the Cheshire cat.
"Interesting," I said. "Very interesting."

Whether the photo and the talk it has generated are fact or fishy fiction doesn't matter. The mystery is part of the tale itself a tale that has more twists and turns than a hooked catfish.

And, true or not, Barker has long known the stories would get plenty of news play and help promote the event.

Many people don't believe the photo is real, and that is all right. But my mother told me it was, and she had no reason to lie. Faye Callens

Barker told me he first learned of the photo from Betty Coleman, a fellow resident of Savannah, Tenn. She found it while gathering old photos for the Hardin County Historical Society.

Since then, people have told Barker the photo was taken in the Hardin County community of Cerro Gordo in 1914.
Barker also has been told the man standing alongside the catfish was Warren McConnell and that a copy of the picture hung for many years in Pitts General Store.

The catfish has been estimated, by those who believe in the photo's authenticity, to weigh from 500 to 800 pounds.

I interviewed the late Faye Callens, also of Savannah, who said his mother, Rilla Callens, handed down the photo to him. He said his mother had worked as a bookkeeper at Pitts General Store, and she told him the photo was genuine; a man named Green Bailey caught the fish on a trotline.

Indeed Bailey's name is inscribed on the photo along with the date and place where the photo was taken, "Cerro Gordo 1914." Callens also said he visited Bailey's sister several years ago, and she told him her brother did catch the big fish.

"Many people don't believe the photo is real, and that is all right," Callens said. "But my mother told me it was, and she had no reason to lie."
There is the rub. To call a fisherman a liar is one thing. But to say so about his mother is enough to get filleted, and fast.

Some people say it's fake, but others firmly believe the catfish was actually caught.
Jay Barker, president of Tennessee's National Catfish Derby

As I continued to investigate, though, I found many other stories attached to the old photo.

One was that the late Joe B. Pitts, proprietor of Pitts General Store, actually caught the fish. Another story claimed that the fish was caught during a dry summer after it became landlocked in shallow water (before dams regulated water levels on the Tennessee River).

Then, too, there is the fishy side of the story.
Barker said some Savannah residents have told him the photo was a fake. Many believe the catfish actually weighed 50-80 pounds and was placed on a child's wagon to be photographed as an optical illusion. To make the gag complete, a cardboard cutout of a man from a cigarette ad was placed on the wagon.

Perhaps this is the real truth behind this fish tale, because Barker also has a copy of another photo of the same man and fish taken from a different angle.
The man is posed exactly the same as he is in the other photo €” one hand on his thigh and the other on his hip, as he stoops to admire the fish. The only difference is this photo was taken from the front of the wagon rather than from the side.

"Some people say it's fake, but others firmly believe the catfish was actually caught," Barker said.

What does Barker believe? He'd never admit the old photo is too fishy. After all, can you get too fishy in a place that bills itself as the "Catfish Capitol of the World"?

"Personally, I believe it is authentic, and it shows without a doubt why we're (Hardin County) the Catfish Capitol of the World," Barker proclaimed. (Perhaps it is no coincidence this promotions man has the last name "Barker".)
Besides, he pointed out that there definitely are some big catfish swimming in the Hardin County waters of the Tennessee River, especially below Pickwick Dam.

"Probably are some catfish out there that are this big, but anglers just aren't rigged with tackle strong enough to land them," he said.
What would happen if a cat as big as the one depicted in the old photo was caught during the county's annual National Catfish Derby?
"I'd try to find a swimming pool big enough to put it in," Barker laughed. "A fish that big would be a tourist attraction all by itself."

At one time the famed photo had been made into a postcard used to promote the National Catfish Derby.
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  #2  
Old 03-06-2007, 03:21 PM
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Default Re: Giant Catfish

Wow. There was one caught in a net in Mekong delta that weighed 646 pounds. The world record is 187 pounds for a blue. Its got to be a fake.

https://www.stripers247.com/phpBB2/showthread.php?t=2476

Here's apic of the Mekong Fish
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  #3  
Old 03-06-2007, 05:58 PM
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Default Re: Giant Catfish

You sure can tell its a flatheadasaurus. I believe it to be true, it's just a biggun!
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Old 03-06-2007, 06:09 PM
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Default Re: Giant Catfish

I guess. The world record flat head is 91 pounds.
I know you have tied into some biguns
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Old 03-08-2007, 04:42 AM
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Default Re: Giant Catfish

We have hooked into some creatures on the Ohio river... that you can't even bring up!

We just call them mystery fish!
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Old 12-05-2008, 06:49 AM
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Old 12-05-2008, 03:42 PM
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Default Re: Giant Catfish

I grew up on the Tn river in Hardin County Tn. And have seen that picture a lot of times. As I bet there was still DNA from me on the floor under that picture were I would slobber all over my self LOL. That is until the Tornado Blew the old store away back in the spring.
My dad and I have caught some that we could not handle in the River a few miles below Pickwick dam. Where I grew up as a kid. We fished for a living there. and have had fish to roll up a trot line that would reach across the river. And when we took it up. It was about the size of a basket ball. And the only one trotter and hook sticking out of. With the 5 weights also rolled up tight. When I was around 8 years old. And would get to fish with Dad when we were taking up trot lines. There was an old black man, that fished at the savannah Bridge at Savannah Tn. And he would tell us, That he cut the big one off his line. And had him on it a lot of times. His old Wooden John boat was 12ft long. And he would hold his hand where the fish would come to. And the fish was 7ft+ Now may Grandpa, He fished the River there at Shiloh Park around the time that picture was taken. And he would tell us kids it was real. He caught one in 1921 that;s head was 24+ inches wide, He could not get it into the boat by his self. My dad caught a 97 lb blue the year before I was born 1962. I still have a picture of it. And there's been 3 times that Dad has one on that would make 2 of this one. But could not get him.
In 1998 I was fishing Gill nets ( I know I hate them also) And had a 40, 50, and a 55 lb blue in one gill net. And a hole about 40ft from them. That I could bend over a little and walk through. It had slime on it big as a mans thumb all around the hole. After we got it home and stretched it out to work on it. A 312 lb man make it through this hole.. How much did that fish weigh? I will never know, but I have lost some there on rod and reel that I could not handle. and was using a 7 1/2ft Tiger Rod heavy action and 80 lb spider wire. And 8/0 hooks. I had him or her on for 15 minutes. Then the fish decided it was time to leave. And left town, there was slime over 6ft up my line from that fish.
So is the picture real? I don't know, but as for the record. Did they even keep records back in 1914? Don't think so.. Will a bigger fish be caught? Yes I think we will be seeing a 200 lb blue in the next 3 years. Look at this on my site.http://www.wildwolfproducts.com/testimonials.htm This fish had to be between 150 and 160 easy. But John's scales only went to 100 lbs. And he would not kill it. So its still swimming in the MS river.
Pete
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Old 12-05-2008, 04:13 PM
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Default Re: Giant Catfish

Great story Pete! The head of that blue cat on the MS is absolutely fargin HUGE!

One could only wonder what it weighed???

Hats off to John!
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  #9  
Old 12-05-2008, 10:53 PM
YungMoney YungMoney is offline
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Default Re: Giant Catfish

its scary when you catch a fish and it starts moving your boat... liek wtf?...

of carse its a huge cat

14ft boat
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