Big fish under Wheeler Dam- spoonbill cat

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Posted by jason on January 22, 2006 at 14:55:35:

Went fishing with two friends sunday the 15th of jan. one friend in the boat with me, another in his own boat. we tried for striper from 8 o'clock until about ten thirty that morning working the outer turbines discharging below wheeler dam. finally,about ten-fifteen, steve ran up to the dam in his boat on the outside of the fast water, and made a cast and within 10 or fifteen turns of the reel, sat the hook on what mike and myself thought was a good stiped bass.
we were taking turns running the boat and fishing and we stayed held in the fast water and i kept on casting. about ten minutes later, mike's nextel started beeping and when he answered it was steve hollering BIG FISH...BIG FISH...NEED HELP!!
he had drifted past the power line islands and well past the big island and we could see his seven foot pole bent over, we ran down river and got next to his boat and i readied my net. when he got the fish to come up i was amazed, and knew we had no chance of netting it. after two tries, i threw the net down and grabbed my boga grip and jumped over into his boat.
after he regained all the line the fish had taken after the last attempt to net him, i was able to grab his lower jaw with the grip. i almost couldn't get him over into the boat. when we landed in the floor, and i pulled the pliers off my belt, i noticed that in all the thrashing of coming into the boat, the hook was hanging free from his mouth. it took no effort to remove.
steve was quite upset when i explained that we could not keep the fish or return to the marina to use larger scales to weigh it because it was a paddlefish, and they are protected due to overharvest, and must be released immediately. although he was alot happier to hear that i had a camera in my boat, and carry one religously to snap photos of big cats when i fish. we took several photos of the fish and returned him to the water in a matter of a minute or two, and after holding him facing upstream, the big fish started kicking wanting to go or fight and we released him and watched him cruise away.
for some perspective in the picture, steve is six foot 4 inches tall. we estimated the fish to weigh in at seventy pounds. boy he was upset later at the marina when we found out the state record is only 52 pounds and ounces.....but that was in 1982 before they were protected..but, we were all still happy to be a part in this big fish story and see him swim away....maybe somebody else will catch him and do the same after enjoying the fight this fish put up.
he was caught on a two ounce lead head bucktail jig w/red head and white for the stripers, didn't catch one, and the catfishing the rest of the day was a big goose egg also, but if you ask me, not a bad day for three guys on a fishing trip and only caught one fish....

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