The 7-year-old Lake Blackshear flathead catfish was broken on Friday, Sept. 15 by Shannen Kitchens, of Americus. Shannen’s Appaloosa weighed 39-lbs., 15.04-ozs, beating the old record by nearly a half pound.
“Friday was just like pretty much every day for me, I was working and wishing I was fishing,” said Shannen. “I was counting the minutes until my wife Donna and I could get off work and hit the lake, which is our normal weekend routine. I generally fish several times a week and as much as possible on the weekends.”
Shannen’s eagerness to get to the lake was ramped up since his good friend and fishing partner Jance Griffin had been fishing that morning and said the catfish were biting.
“Donna and I finally got to the lake around 5:30 and started trying to catch bream for bait,” said Shannen. “The water level at Lake Blackshear that day was about a foot or so lower than normal. Hurricane Irma had just passed through, and I guess they were making room for whatever water she dumped north of us. This low water level was making catching bream a little more difficult than usual because all of our best spots were pretty shallow.”
Jance was still on the lake and pulled up to offer a few bream to Shannen and Donna so they could get started fishing. The two boats fished nearby so they could enjoy the afternoon together.
“Over the next hour or so, we caught one about 12 pounds and another about 8 pounds,” said Shannen.
“Some time just before dark, we were trying to decide if we were going to go on home or go fish a few dock lights first. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I got a bite that all catfishermen love. He nailed it! This wasn’t a timid bite where you aren’t sure and sit there wondering. This was one of those bites where the fish was trying to devour the bait as fast as possible. I reeled down and set the hook and immediately knew it was a good fish. I told Donna to, ‘Get the net,’ and I held on.”
With a fish of magnitude on the line, Jance told Shannen to get on the trolling motor and head to deep water.
“I was using 50-lb. line and a heavy-duty rod and reel, so I just held on and took what the fish would give me and kind of let him come up at his own pace,” said Shannen. “I guess it took between five and 10 minutes, and I finally got him to the top. It really never entered my mind that he was quite as big as he was until his head broke the surface, and I heard Jance say, ‘That’s a new lake record!’”
Like a pro, Donna netted the fish.
“After a picture or 12 and a few whoops and hollers, I got out my hand-held scales and attempted to weigh him. My scales kept bouncing around from 39 pounds all the way up to 44 pounds at one point. I knew it was possible that this was a new lake record, but I had no clue what to do about it,” said Shannen.
After a few calls, Shannen knew he needed to get his fish weighed on certified scales. However, it was late in the evening at that point.
“We decided to tie him off to Jance’s dock for the night,” said Shannen.
The next morning, the fish was weighed in Americus by Wally Joiner at Farmers Seed And Feed.
“After getting the weight and witnesses information and signatures, Donna and I headed back to the lake. We tied the fish to the dock again and went fishing,” said Shannen. “After talking with several more people verifying that I had done my due diligence and all necessary steps had been taken, we released the fish to fight another battle another day. A perfect ending to a perfect experience!”
Shannen said he had help with the certification process from Brad McDaniel from Flint River Outdoors, Tiff Thompson, who holds the Flint River flathead record, and the legend Mr. Steve Wurtz.
“A lot of things have to go your way when you have a big fish of any kind on,” said Shannen. “On this day, everything went my way perfectly. The first five seconds or so are crucial. I was able to get the fish off the bottom and away from structure without too much trouble. The hook could not have been buried in the fish’s mouth any better. I had a good friend coaching me through the process, and my beautiful wife was perfect on the net. It is an experience that I will never forget.”
The official Georgia Lake and River Records are kept and compiled by GON. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.