Residents of Glynn County will no longer have to tune in to the History Channel for images of “river monsters,” not after Garry Harrell hauled in a massive, 100-lb. flathead catfish from the Altamaha River on Friday, June 9, at approximately 6:15 a.m.
Garry has earned quite a reputation for hooking enormous catfish, having caught an 80-lb. flathead on June 3, 2016—a year and a week prior to his latest feat. The Glynn County resident noticed abnormal movements in the Altamaha’s tides after heavy rains drenched Brunswick on Wednesday, June 7.
“I noticed that the tides were acting weird,” said Garry. “The water would have a high build and then have a low drop, and that looked strange to me.”
Perhaps such bizarre movements were a harbinger for the trophy flathead that lurked beneath the murky depths.
Wednesday’s rains delayed Garry from baiting his limb lines, but the fisherman continued his business on Thursday, and by Friday, he had a dozen hooks out using 30-lb. braid fixed with 14/0 circle hooks and “special sinkers” (hey, a fisherman can’t divulge all of his secrets), baited with warmouth.
Garry set off alone on the morning of June 9 in his low-lying vessel and traveled to the family honeyhole. The location of this spot is, of course, classified information.
At approximately 6:15 a.m., Garry noticed that one of his lines was pulled taut by the weight of a big fish. After steering the edge of his boat to the line, he pulled the line up and hooked the flathead underneath the gills with his gaff.
“If I had a tall bass boat, I probably couldn’t have hauled him in by myself,” recalled Garry. “Because my boat sits low in the water, I can slide fish over the side, and that saves me from a lot of struggle.”
Garry will use his haul as he has been using all of his catfish for the past six years: he will trim the meat into pure, 2-lb. packages and deliver it to local families who are not able to fish or who are in need of meat.
“I started going on ‘fish runs’ about five or six years ago after catching more 10- to 15-pounders than I could eat, so I started giving them away to people who didn’t have the opportunity to fish… I never sell the meat commercially because I believe the Good Lord keeps supplying me with fish as long as I give them away.”
The Good Lord has certainly honored Garry’s noble cause with abundant harvests, and his 100-lb. blessing will go a long way in feeding his peers with the Southern delicacy that is catfish.
According to Garry, the DNR aged the fish at 11 years old. Flatheads can live up to 20 years of age, so it’s hard to say just how big this beast could have gotten in another few years. The fish was a female, and it had just laid approximately 15 to 20 pounds of eggs prior to being caught, according to biologists.
Garry’s flathead would have obliterated the state-record weight of 83 pounds if it had been caught on a rod-and-reel.
When asked about his reputation as a big-fish wrangler, Garry replied, “I’ve always believed that you just have to be at the right place, at the right time, under the right conditions.”
As long as he keeps giving fish away, it seems that the Creator will keep placing Garry in the right place, at the right time, under the right conditions.