As he dropped the massive animal on the wooden deck, his small boat began to shake and drift above the cold water. He couldn’t believe it. It was, without a doubt, the biggest fish he had ever caught in his entire life.
He stood back for a few seconds, admiring his catch. Getting the fish out of the water had been a struggle that nearly cost him his life. But just then, he decided to look into the fish’s mouth, and he was instantly struck with awe and horror. Everything made sense now.
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?
Eugene wasn’t done there. When he got back to the dock, the other fishermen took notice of his haul. They all congratulated him on finding and winning the fight against the beast. He put the catfish in a cooler box before loading it into his truck.
He drove home while listening to the radio. But he had no idea that he drew too much attention to himself, especially when an uninvited guest would arrive at his house just the next day.
Eugene Cronley was only just celebrating his accomplishment when he went home with his prize. He gutted the fish and put it in his fridge. He was looking forward to preparing it the next day for dinner.
He went to bed that night, dreaming of that delicious fish. But he had no idea that he would get an unexpected surprise at his front door.
Eugene woke up and got his day started with a cup of coffee. But not ten minutes after he sat down to drink it, he got a knock on his door. At 10 A.M, he wasn’t sure who could be there to see him.
He got up off of his chair in the kitchen and walked over to the door. But when he opened the door, he couldn’t believe what he saw.
After Eugene opened his front door, he saw a man standing in front of him. He was in uniform but clearly wasn’t a cop. “Can I help you?” Eugene asked with a confused look on his face.
“Good morning, sir. I’m here inquiring about a potential case of poaching that could have happened yesterday afternoon,” the man at the door stated. Eugene was even more confused now.
The man further explained, “I’m a representative of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation. We try our best to conserve nature against any kind of threat, including poaching. You were out fishing yesterday, weren’t you?
Eugene nodded his head. Was this catfish some kind of rare species? Is that why it was so big? He had no idea what the man had in store for him.
“There was a possible incident yesterday on the waters of the Mississippi. Other fishermen say that you were bragging about quite the catch. We just wanna make sure that you didn’t do anything illegal.” The man pressed Eugene further.
He started asking Eugene more invasive questions about what he was doing the day before. But why was he so interested?
Eugene felt his heart rate start to go up. This was no random line of questioning. Eugene felt like instead of him asking if he’d seen a crime, he was just trying to get him to admit to something he hadn’t done.
Eugene would never do anything bad on purpose. He started regretting ever setting eyes on the big catfish from the previous day.
The man finally introduced himself as Hank Arlington. He worked closely with the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and was passionate about animals. He never wanted anything bad to happen to the local wildlife.
When he heard that there was a possibility of poaching, he would be relentless in finding out the truth. Something that would spell trouble for Eugene.
Thoughts were now racing through Eugene’s mind. He stood there while Arlington explained what was going on. But he was already thinking about what he had done.
The man must have been talking about the catfish, right? There wasn’t any other animal that he could have thought about. But he had no idea what intentions the man had.
“Sir, what were you doing yesterday when you went out to the lake? Did you catch anything?” Arlington asked. Eugene felt a lump in his throat. This was it. He had to think quickly to try and find a way out of this.
But he knew he had to be truthful. Eugene decided that it was best if he just told the man everything he needed to know. Maybe then he’d get less of a consequence.
Eugene thought for a moment before spilling everything. He explained how he had loved going out on the Mississippi water as a fisherman. He would always try to find the best catch. But he also explained that he’d never try to poach any wildlife.
As far as he knew, catfish weren’t on any endangered or conservation list. He thought it was completely legal to catch them. That’s when Arlington raised his eyebrows.
“What catfish?” Arlington asked. Eugene explained that the day before, while he was fishing, he had managed to catch the mighty beast he was proud of before. He explained the process of catching it, its weight, everything.
But while Eugene was explaining the situation, he forgot one small detail. This detail would make or break things for him.
Arlington didn’t seem interested in the catfish. He explained that the potential poaching had nothing to do with catfish. It was to do with an alligator. Eugene should have put two and two together.
He had no idea that his catfish actually had everything to do with the poaching. And once Arlington knew, things would take a turn.
“We found an alligator in the lake. It looked like someone had taken its foot off. He’s okay and in our custody, but we want to make sure that it wasn’t harmed intentionally.”
Then it all made sense to Eugene. He forgot one small detail about the catfish. He was quick to explain that it was the culprit for the alligator’s missing foot.
Arlington listened to his explanation, and with a satisfied nod, he thanked Eugene for being honest with him the whole way through. He stepped out of his doorway and walked down to his car.
Eugene breathed a sigh of relief. Now he could look forward to his catfish, knowing full well that he had done nothing wrong. In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.