Largemouth bass may have put Florida on the international sportfishing map, but ask any local and they will tell you that nothing pulls harder than a good old brown bullhead catfish.
Dade City resident Richard Clinton used to be just your average angler. But on Feb. 12 he landed a fish that will earn him a spot in the record books. Clinton and his cousin were fishing for crappie on Lake Iola, a privately owned lake in Pasco County, when something grabbed his bait in 32 feet of water.
Clinton had already caught a 7-pound bass that morning, so he didn’t know what to think when the fish kept pulling off line. He was surprised to find the mystery fish, when it finally broke the surface, was a brown bullhead.
The angler suspected he might have a record on his hands so he contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which informed him that the fish weighed in at 7.02 pounds, a few ounces shy of a world record, but fat enough to beat the old state record by more than a pound.
Brown bullhead catfish are native to the eastern United States and often are confused with the yellow bullhead. According to the International Game Fish Association, the biggest brown bullhead on record weighed in at 7-pounds, 6-ounces and was caught in New York’s Mahopac Lake on Aug. 1, 2009.
But Clinton will be honored for his accomplishment. The FWC recognizes anglers who catch a memorable-size fish by giving them a Big Catch certificate. The state issues certificates for 33 different species of freshwater fish.