For fishing guide Chad Ferguson, December thru February are prime fishing months for trophy catfish. Those months typically mean brisk business for the Saginaw, Texas guide, but the down side is there’s usually little time to take his own 12-year old son, Lane, out chasing the big cats. Until last December, that is, when Chad made good on a promise he’d made his son. It would prove to be a fateful decision for both. This is the story of Lane, his father and one very big catfish…
As told by Chad Ferguson…
Being a fishing guide is a lot like being a plumber or anything else for that matter, and your stuff is always last. The plumbers house always has leaking pipes and the fishing guide rarely gets to “just go fishing” for the sake of fishing. My son, Lane has always wanted to catch a record fish and it seems something was always getting in the way (mostly my lack of time to take him during peak times). We took some time last winter, but it was limited, and although we managed some really nice blue catfish, we just didn’t connect with that record fish.
This last Fall we discussed it, and I committed to taking some time off during the holidays to try and get him on that record catfish. The goal was a lake record or a lake junior angler record. In Texas, a junior angler record applies to any fish caught by an angler less than 16 years of age.
The First Attempt
The first attempt at landing the record catfish took place on Wednesday, December 21 2011. We arrived at the boat ramp and I saw a friend’s truck sitting at the ramp. Pulling away from the marina I called him and after a brief conversation he informed me his son had just landed a new junior angler lake record of 40 lbs.
A few minutes later we met on the water and they showed us the fish. We shared some brief pleasantries and parted ways so he could go weigh his catfish and we could catch some fresh bait and get to fishing. My son was a little bummed about the other angler’s probable record. I’d been pretty confident we could break the previous junior angler record of 26 lbs that day because, truth be told, it was kind of a “softball” record. We ended up with numerous big fish that day, but the biggest was “only” 36.5 lbs. At least I’d been right about the previous record being a softball.
The Second Attempt
After lunch on Friday, December 23, we headed out with plans to knock out a new junior record. The new record fish from Wednesday actually turned out to weigh 37 lbs, which was easily still the junior record. I was still pretty confident we could break the record before year end but landing a blue catfish that was 37+ lbs was not quite the softball that the 26 lb record was. Still, I was pretty confident we could find him a better fish. We started catching some fresh shad and then proceeded to idle around using my fish finder to locate some good sized blue catfish.
We located active feeding fish in several areas and made several attempts to catch them but kept pulling up channel cats despite seeing what I thought were mature blue catfish on the sonar. We moved to a new area and made several passes through a hole I frequently fish. We picked up several large fish on the side scan fish finder and threw out the anchor. We sat for about fifteen minutes, which is as long as I like to sit and wait with no activity on the lines. I then made some slight adjustments with the boat’s position and put the lines back into the water. Within ten minutes of the move one of the rods slammed down and my son grabbed it.
I knew when I saw him swing the rod back the first time it was a good fish, but wasn’t sure how good. I was giving my son pointers and telling him to slow play it. At this point, I still wasn’t really sure about the size of this fish. When he finally got the fish up near the boat, the fish took another run only this time it managed to drag the boat into the wind. It was then that I realized just how good the fish was.
Lane has been fishing his whole life and handled the situation well with me standing there coaching him through the process but I was a little nervous at times. At one point the fishing rod doubled over into the water and I could hear the rod tip tapping the boat!
We landed the fish with the dip net and got it into the boat and I knew immediately he had blown the 37 lb junior angler record away. When it was all said and done, the fish weighed over 66 lbs! We release the catfish after getting the proper weights and measurements, and it swam away to fight another day!
I submitted the required paperwork for the lake record, junior angler lake record, lake catch and release record and Texas State Junior Angler Record Catfish. Three weeks later the certificates arrived and Lane’s been awarded the following records:
(1) Catch and Release Water Body Record
(2) Water Body Record
(3) Catch and Release Water Body Junior Angler
(4) Water Body Record Junior Angler
(5) Catch and Release State Record Junior Angler
(6) State Record Junior Angler Blue Catfish
He was also given a Big Fish Award by TPWD. Watching him catch this catfish, the smile on my his face and the excitement in his voice when he talks about his big fish is better than any Christmas present anyone could have given me. This is truly one of those father son moments I will never forget. The official weight was 66.28 Lbs!