Anglers are well-known for exaggerating the facts about their catches. They might fudge a bit when describing a fishâ€™s length and weight. Occasionally, they will tell a little white lie about the bait or lure they used. Some will protect favored fishing holes by saying they caught a big bass or catfish somewhere else.
Fishermen donâ€™t always embellish their stories, however, because they donâ€™t always need to. Some fishing tales can be recounted truthfully and accurately, yet still amaze the audiences who hear them.
The following collection of stories is a case a point. These tales might seem to be the fanciful imaginings of less-than-truthful anglers, but despite being quite strange, each and every one is totally true.
According to a 1951 â€śRipleyâ€™s Believe It or Notâ€ť column, when James Price of Locust Grove accidentally dropped his dentures into Bull Shoals Lake, he wrote them off as a loss. But 10 days later, he got them back when he caught the 20-pound catfish that had swallowed them!
The chances of catching a state-record fish are extremely small. Two anglers catching two records the same day from the same boat borders on the impossible, but it has been done.
On April 15, 1984, William Garvey and William Wilson of Indianapolis, Indiana, were fishing for white bass with Bull Shoals Lake fishing guide Keith Katcher. The men were using deep-running Rebel crankbaits in the Barnes Bay area of the lake in Arkansas when Garvey hooked a massive 5-pound, 2-ounce white bass. That fish established a new state record for the species, surpassing a 4-pound, 15-ounce state-record white caught from the White River at Beaver Lake by Bud Stopple of Eureka Springs nearly 15 years earlier.
Garveyâ€™s record didnâ€™t hold a place in the record book quite as long as Stoppleâ€™s fish, however. In fact, it was bumped out of first place before the day ended. You see, Garveyâ€™s fishing partner, William Wilson, landed a white bass only a few hours later that pulled the scales to 5 pounds, 4 ounces, and another new state record was established.
â€śThey were really into some good fish that day,â€ť said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officer Barry McKenzie of Bull Shoals, who verified the weights of both fish. â€śIn addition to two record fish, they had several that weighed more than 4 pounds.â€ť
Wilsonâ€™s 5-pound, 4-ounce record remained unbroken for more than 20 years.
John Mazurek of Glenn Ellyn, Illinois, was fishing in Lake Conway in Faulkner County when he made a most unusual catch. Mazurek was casting close to Conwayâ€™s dam when he noticed something strange clinging to one of the gates. Being a brave sort, he grabbed the unusual-looking object, and to his surprise, it grabbed back with eight arms covered in suction cups.
The weird creature was a rather large, reddish-colored octopus â€” a common species usually found in Florida saltwater environs. Experts at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission could not explain how the octopus wound up in the lake, 690 miles from the nearest saltwater. But they believe someone probably had it in an aquarium, and when the octopus outgrew its home, it was dumped into the lake.
The AGFC said Mazurekâ€™s fishing license would cover catching octopi, and they commended him for not exceeding the daily limit on the species.
Retired Arkansas fisheries biologist Robert Zachary made one of the weirdest Arkansas fish catches, and it was accomplished in a most unusual way.
â€śI was fishing for white bass below a dam on the Arkansas River when I hooked something on a small jig,â€ť Zachary said. â€śHalf an hour later, and 200 yards down the river bank, I landed a lamprey eel still attached to a 10-pound blue catfish. My jig had foul-hooked the lamprey, and amazingly, my 6-pound-test line didnâ€™t break, and the lamprey wouldnâ€™t release its catch, either.â€ť
Conrad Wood of El Dorado was well-known as the creator of such fishing lures as the Woodâ€™s Dipsy Doodle and Heddon Sonic. He once bet some anglers at a fish camp that he could catch a bass on a sweet potato. After obtaining the yam, Wood sliced it in half, inserted a wire holding a treble hook through the pointed end and tied his line to the protruding loop at the flat-cut end. He worked the floating tater like a chugger plug around the knees of a big bald cypress tree and quickly caught a fat largemouth bass.
On Aug. 3, 2001, Charles Ashley Jr. of Marion landed a 116-pound, 12-ounce world-record blue catfish in the Arkansas portion of the Mississippi River at West Memphis. He caught the cat on a rather unusual bait that his father and grandfather had used for decades when catfishing â€” a chunk of Hormel Spam. Might want to give that one a try the next time youâ€™re after a jumbo whiskerfish.
While Ashleyâ€™s catfish was a world record at the time it was caught, it isnâ€™t the biggest catfish known from Arkansas. That honor goes to a specimen whose remains were found in November 1983. It makes the world-record catfish of today look positively puny by comparison, and may be, in fact, the largest fish that ever lived in Arkansas.
The geologist who found the giant catfishâ€™s remains was working along Arkansas 79 near Camden when he saw a piece of bone protruding from a dirt embankment. Pulling out the bone, he discovered an almost 3-foot-long skull with a jutting 9-inch dorsal fin. Paleontologists later identified the specimen as the remains of a 10-foot-long, 1,000-pound catfish that swam the seas 40 million years ago. All one needed for a complete meal was half a ton of hushpuppies, fries and coleslaw.
Too bad weâ€™ll never get a chance to hook a whopper like that.