Two more record catches seem to have lifted South Carolina out of the fishing lull.
Terry Dodson, a 40-year-old carpenter from Rosman, N.C., caught a record-breaking 9-pound, 7-ounce smallmouth bass May 3 from a "familiar" section of Lake Jocassee. On May 11, Jessica Preston, an 18-year-old Gilbert resident, caught a 79-pound, 4-ounce flathead catfish in the Santee Diversion Canal, breaking the record by two pounds, one ounce set by North Carolina angler David Butler in early April.
For months now fishing has been slow on almost every lake in the state. But April and May seem to have brought something other than showers and flowers. Since early April, at least five anglers have caught record fish, with Dodson and Preston catching records in the past three weeks.
Dodson says it was almost dark when he got to the lake at 8:30 p.m. to do a little night bass fishing. He and his fishing buddy, Dale Whitmire, decided to go to a familiar spot on the lake. With no luck there, they checked out two more spots. Then, Dodson had a hunch to go back to the first spot. That hunch paid off. "I just had a feeling to go back down to that first point where we started," Dodson said. "The second cast I made, I caught the fish."
According to Dodson, the 9-pound, 7-ounce smallmouth put up a big fight that lasted about eight minutes. "It pulled off a lot of line from my reel," Dodson said. Fishing from a boat, Dodson used 12-pound-test Ande premium monofilament on a 7-foot Bass Pro-Shop cranking stick with an Abu Garcia reel. The technique Dodson used was throwing a crankbait and working it off the rocks. Dodson says he cast, gave the lure three quick cranks and the fish hit. The 9-pound, 7-ounce fish was 24 and one-half inches long. The girth was 19 and one-half inches.
"That fish fought so hard it almost died," Dodson said. "Once Dale helped me net the fish, he looked up at me and said, 'My God. What a fish!'" The previous South Carolina record for smallmouth bass was 8 pounds, 1 and one- half ounces caught March 18, 1995, at Lake Jocassee by 11-year-old Brenna Jo Ritteger of Rogers, Ohio. Dodson says catching the record smallmouth was a dream come true. His goal is to one day become a professional guide and to win money in fishing tournaments.
Jessica Preston never really thought about catching a record fish. All she knew was that she enjoyed spending time on the lake with her dad, Dean Preston. She says she's been fishing with her dad since she was "in diapers." Jessica's luck changed May 11 when she caught a 79-pound, 4-ounce flathead catfish using a Shakespeare Ugly Stick, Shakespeare 17- pound test line, and a 2000 Shakespeare reel. She was using whole dead herring for bait.
"My rod went down and I grabbed it," Preston said. "I started trying to reel the fish in and he went through all our lines and got them tangled up. He went under the anchor rope twice." After about 35 minutes of fighting with her catch, Jessica said her arms began to give out. That's when she called on her dad for help. The big fish was no match for Dean who was able to pull the cat beside the boat. They were able to drag him over the side and into the boat. The fish was too big for the cooler, so they tied the fish off the side of the boat and continued fishing for about an hour. After stopping in at the scales at Canal Lakes Resort, the Prestons headed home with their big catch to use the meat in several fish fries and catfish stews.
Preston's flathead catfish was certified as a new state record by DNR biologist Scott Lamprecht. The 79-pound 4- ounce cat was 51 inches long. The girth was 34 inches.
Anglers who think they have a new state or world record freshwater fish should take it as soon as possible to the nearest set of state certified scales - such as grocery store scales. Two people at least 18 years old should witness the weighing of a potential state record fish. The witnesses will need to sign a state affidavit form once the angler obtains it from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), so be sure to get the witnesses' addresses and phone numbers.
If you think you've caught a state record fish, take immediate steps to preserve the fish until it can be verified by a state fisheries biologist. It can be placed on ice, but freezing is preferred. Lightly wet the fish and wrap it in a dark, plastic bag. If possible, take a picture of the fish while it is still fresh for additional documentation. To record the fish officially, contact Shirley Clark, Freshwater Fish Records Program, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, (803) 734-3943.
- Written by Dawn Mills Campbell -