June 26, 2003
Limb line hooks big fish, then bigger catfish
By JACK SPAULDING, Shelbyville News
The healthy appetite was a 50-pound catfish’s undoing as it swallowed a 4-pound catfish caught on a limb line. Jerry Bennett of Shelbyville, left, and Phillip Moore of Bloomington, right, hold up the 48-inch, 50-pound flathead catfish caught in the White River.
Submitted photo courtesy of White River Bait & Tackle
“Big bait, big fish,” is an adage nearly every fisherman worth his salt has heard, and Shelbyville’s Street Commissioner, Jerry Bennett, will be the first to agree.
Bennett and his brother-in-law, Phillip Moore, of Bloomington, were limb-line fishing on the White River north of the William’s Dam below Bedford when they inadvertently raised the bar on that old adage.
Crikey Mates! Believe me, the exploits of these two are worthy of the Crocodile Hunter.
During the first week of June, the twosome had caught their live bait for their limb lines using tiny hooks and little waxworms. Limb lining is an old-time, simple process of fishing — a stout limb hanging over suitable water is selected and a strong line baited with a small live fish is attached to it. Indiana law allows 10 lines per angler with each line to be marked with the anglers name and address. Additionally, the lines must be attended by the angler at least once every 24 hours.
The lines were put out and checked the following morning. What the two anglers were to discover can be described as the Jonah Syndrome, or as my mother always instructed me, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”
As Bennett and Moore approached a limb line, Bennett could tell the catch was big.
“You can tell, when you start to lift the line, what to expect on the other end; and this was a big fish. With one this size, you take your time and don’t hurry it, or you will lose it.”
Bennett eased the fish up slowly only to discover at the end of the line was a huge flathead catfish.
I asked Bennett how they landed a four-foot-long flathead.
“To land most of our larger catfish, we use a big landing net. But a fish of this size, you have to use your hands,” Bennett said. “We keep a pair of special gloves we use and we just ease in and grab the fish right in the mouth with both hands and hang on tight. You grab that fish just like you would if you were lipping a big bass.
“We have caught some pretty nice catfish on this section of river. I think our best has been about 36 pounds. But, those fish we caught a little more conventionally than this catfish.”
Apparently what happened was sometime during the night, a four-pound channel catfish decided to make a meal out of the small bait fish and was securely hooked by the limb line. As the night progressed, a monster-sized flathead catfish came along and decided to make a snack out of the channel catfish. Yep...just like the cartoon…little fish gets eaten by bigger fish and bigger fish gets eaten by giant fish.
The flathead swallowed the channel catfish headfirst and whole and started to swim away. As the flathead pulled against the line, the channel cat’s sharp, dorsal spines spread out and lodged the smaller catfish in the flathead’s throat.
After a good deal of wrestling and tugging, and at risk for falling out of the boat, the two veteran limb liners landed the huge fish.
“Usually, we release most of the fish we catch, but the sharp spikes of the channel catfish had severely damaged the flathead,” said Bennett. “We knew it wouldn’t survive, so we took it home and cleaned it.”
Bennett and I both agree that a four-pound channel catfish and a 50-pound flathead is a pretty good return on a single waxworm. With all of that fresh catfish on hand, Bennett put it to good use. He invited about 30 of his friends and fellow street department workers in for a lunchtime fish fry.
“Cooking up the catfish and sharing it with all the crew is a good time,” said Bennett. “It’s a chance to let everyone know how much we appreciate all they do for the city.”
Now that’s my idea of a good boss. In appreciation, his employees bought Bennett a plaque honoring his big catch.
I told Bennett that sometime I might like to tag along with him and Moore and try some big river limb lining. If I get the chance to go, I think I’ll let Jerry wear the landing gloves.
Online HIP program too hip
With the advent of the World Wide Web and instantaneous access to information on a myriad of subjects, there has evolved a new mindset concerning media coverage. The modern media coverage acceptance simply states, “There is no bad coverage by the media unless they misspell your Web site.”
Truer words were never spoken…especially if you are relying on the newly released Indiana Hunting and Trapping Guide. Tucked in among the information pertinent to waterfowl hunters is the regulation requiring hunters to take a survey to obtain a Harvest Information Program number to be written on their hunting licenses.
The HIP program is a federal program used to help monitor harvest numbers and help furnish information necessary to manage waterfowl on a national basis. The survey is available by one of two ways.
The first way a hunter can complete the survey is to dial the HIP telephone number at 1-800-WETLAND. The other way listed in the DNR publication is for hunters to go online to www.wetlands.net. Ooops!
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use the above Web site address to take the HIP survey. That Web site is, shall we say, adult-oriented, and I am not talking about acceptable adult behavior. Yes, this Web site has been described by many hunters attempting to take the survey as a porn site.
The correct Web site address for taking the HIP survey is www.wetland.net.
John Maxwell, public information specialist for the Division of Fish & Wildlife confirmed the miscommunication and resulting improper listing.
“It is amazing what the addition of a simple “s” can do when you are connecting to Web sites on the Internet,” said Maxwell. “It was a very slight mistake that lead to an unbelievable misconnection for Indiana waterfowl hunters. We are doing everything we can to help remedy this misinformation and get the right Web site address to waterfowl hunters.”
The DNR had distributed thousands of the free pamphlets to license vendors before discovering the error. The remaining stock of the booklets is being modified, and the DNR is trying to reclaim and correct as many as possible.
As for yours truly…I am picking up the phone and letting my fingers do the walking to register and take the HIP survey. I’m not taking any chances.
‘Till next time…Jack
Readers with questions or comments can contact Spaulding by e-mail at email@example.com or by writing to him in care of this publication.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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