By Jennifer Earl, ,
Published May 30, 2018
A Virginia man made the catch of a lifetime on Saturday when he reeled in a 68-pound flathead catfish, beating a state record set nearly 25 years ago.
Fisherman Jeffrey Dill said it wasn't easy pulling the "monster" fish out of Lake Smith in Virginia Beach with his $20 fishing rod from Walmart — but he did it.
"I put him on the dock, held him down for a minute. He was so big," Dill told WAVY, admitting that he wrestled with the creature for at least 15 minutes.
"It was a monster. It was a true river monster."
Afterward, he hauled the giant fish, who he nicknamed "Big Earle," to nearby Oceans East Bait and Tackle to be measured. A biologist from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) met the man there to observe the weigh-in.
A digital scale showed the fish weighed 68.8 pounds — about 2.4 pounds more than the previous record-setting flathead catfish caught by Mike Willems along the Occoquan Reservoir on May 6, 1994.
"It was a true river monster," Chad Boyce, fish biologist with the Virginia DGIF, told WAVY. "It was a big fish that you don't expect to see in this part of the state, especially in Lake Smith. That's definitely a trophy."
Oceans East Bait and Tackle posted a photo of the whopper on Facebook, garnering hundreds of likes and dozens of comments from impressed locals.
"Saw this catfish when he weighed it in. Could not believe it weighed that much," one man commented.
"Monsta! Pretty Work," another added.
"How many ducks that thing got in its belly?" one Facebook user asked.
Dill said his family and friends were impressed by his winning catch.
"I talked with some of my older buddies and they said some people fish their whole lives and never get close to a state record. It's a big deal," Dill told WFXR.
Lake Smith, across Northampton Boulevard, is shallow, measuring only about 5 feet deep. But it's still a fishing hotspot, thanks to its plentiful largemouth bass population.
"There are opportunities to catch a citation," the Virginia DGIF says. "The lake also has white catfish, crappie, white perch, bluegill, and flathead catfish."