Flathead catfish could have shattered record, but teen angler lets it live

Troy Powers displays flathead catfish that may have shattered Tennessee record. Photo: TWRA

Typically, when an angler reels in a fish almost certain to break a longstanding record, the fish is quickly boated and delivered to the nearest certified scale.

But for 16-year-old Troy Powers, who recently landed a flathead catfish estimated to weigh 100 pounds, or about 15 pounds heavier than a Tennessee record that has stood since 1993, the primary concern was getting the fish back into the water as quickly as possible.

For this reason, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency this week congratulated the conservation-minded Powers and shared the story of his catch on Facebook.

Troy Powers about to release his giant flathead. Photo: TWRA

The flathead was brought aboard briefly for photos and placed on a scale capable of weighing fish to 50 pounds. The scale quickly bottomed out, and when the 5-foot-9 Powers tried hoisting the flathead to his chin, the tail still touched the boat’s deck.

The fish was then tossed back and Powers is quoted as saying, “We really only keep crappie, and everything else we release. We were concerned with keeping this fish alive.”

Because the fish was released, an 85-pound, 15-ounce flathead caught on the Hiwassee River in 1993 remains the Tennessee record. And it remains unclear whether Powers’ flathead might have come close to breaking the world record – a 123-pound flathead caught on the Elk City Reservoir in Kansas in 1998.

Powers was fishing with his father and a neighbor on Watts Bar Lake, and had cast a shad into a shallow pool moments before the fish took the bait and began to run.

“Every time the fish ran, I held on for dear life,” Powers said.

After about 20 minutes, the flathead was at the surface, and though it was too large to fit sideways into the net, it swam into the net head-first, and the three anglers hoisted it onto the boat.

Powers acknowledged that he thought briefly about keeping the fish, but quickly dismissed the idea.

“The catfish was older than me,” he said of a fish said by the TWRA to have been at least 20 years old. “It felt good just to see it swim off and have a chance to grow and get bigger.”

Reads one of many favorable comments beneath the Facebook post: “Fish of a lifetime!!! What a class act to release that beast, which is probably closer to 35 yrs old. My hat’s off to you, Troy Powers!!”

–Hat tip to the Outdoor Hub

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