Local girl hooks giant catfish


Abbie Watson is only 9, but she displayed the muscle and fishing moxie to outsmart and outwork a 40-pound flathead catfish in the clutch last Saturday night.

When the big brown dude with whiskers nearly as prominent as Abraham Lincoln’s grabbed the bait and took the line for a ride, Watson seized the rod and reeled with all of her strength.

About 15 minutes later, she was the victor of the struggle with the large fish on a nearby lake that will serve as the main course in a July 4 family fish fry.

"It took forever," was Watson’s analysis of how long it truly felt to haul the lunker to shore. "It kept fighting me."

When the catfish laid on the ground and Abbie surveyed it, she shouted with pleasure.

"Oh my gosh! That’s the biggest fish I ever got," she said.

The outing began peacefully. The Watsons were visiting a family home on the shore of what dad John described as "a rural private lake" on the Jackson County-Bartholomew County border. Any further identification, he said, will "remain undisclosed."

Everyone was out on the lawn by a roaring fire and toasting s’mores. Four lines were in the water, for possible amusement, with no great expectations of the Loch Ness monster appearing.

"We were just sitting around the campsite," John Watson said.

He has schooled his three daughters, Brooklyn, 16, Abbie and Anna, 7, in the fishing arts, and Abbie is particularly passionate.

Abbie has basically known what she was doing around fish since she was a toddler growing up near Freetown. When the line tugged, Abbie sprang into action. This was a fish with enough power to pull her into the water, but Abbie fought back.

"She was able to handle that fish very well," John said. "She loves to fish."

Abbie briefly protested when Dad employed a crappie for bait. She wanted to keep that fish. But he explained the strategy.

"We’re giving away a big fish to get a bigger fish," he said. So she acquiesced.

Things went from mellow to mayhem quickly once the fish took the hook.

Abbie went to work — and it was work — cajoling the ticked-off fish to land.

"It started going fast," she said.

Dad stepped into the water wielding a net, and when the catfish swam into range, his swipe netted it.

Everyone gathered around to look at the big guy laid out on the grass while Abbie announced her good fortune to the region.

"She was jumping up and down with excitement," John said. "The neighbors knew she was excited, but not about what."

The actual weight was 40 pounds, 12 ounces, and John said he carved about 25 pounds of meat out of the fish. The family already had a previously scheduled fish fry on the calendar for the holiday next month.

"The neighbors are invited," John said.

Before the filleting began, Abbie wondered how they were going to get the catfish home. There was no handy cooler, and it was getting on to be 1 a.m. A box was procured, the fish deposited in it and then buried under ice.

"I felt like amazed," Abbie said of the size of the fish and how she was providing food for the table.

Then she realized there is plenty more time to fish before July 4.

"What if we get another one?" Abbie said.

A bigger one, of course.

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