Michigan catfish don’t quite measure up

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As monstrous as it may seem, Michigan’s recent record-breaking 49.8 pound flathead catfish catch  doesn’t measure up to record-breaking flatheads from other Great Lakes states.

Rodney Akey holding his record-breaking flathead catfish. Photo: Michigan DNR

The largest is Indiana’s 79.8 pounder.

Michigan’s record breaker was caught May 22, by Rodney Akey, on the St. Joseph River, in Berrien County.

Pennsylvania is the only Great Lakes state with a smaller flathead catfish (48.6 pounds) on record. New York doesn’t list one.

There is no established population in Ontario.

Michigan’s relatively small record breaker may be the result of the state’s groundwater fed streams,  said Todd Kalish, the Lake Erie basin coordinator for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. That’s relatively unique in the Great Lakes region and to North America.

“Our streams are really cold and clear. It makes them optimal for trout, but not for catfish,” Kalish said.

The better the growing conditions, the bigger the fish. And catfish like turbid, slow-moving water at temperatures above 70-80 degrees. Many of Michigan’s waters rarely get to that temperature, said Kalish.

Indiana’s record breaker was caught on the White River, which is closer to Kentucky than it is Michigan.

The second largest flathead record in a Great Lakes state is a 78 pounder pulled out of Carlyle Lake, in Southern Illinois.

States south of Michigan offer a longer growing season that lets catfish get bigger, Kalish said.

A close-up of the unglamorous flathead catfish. Photo: USGS

There may be another reason for the relative size difference between catfish records.

“It’s one of those species that’s not glamorous, said Dave Mull, an editor at Great Lakes Angler magazine.

People traditionally catch it for food, not for trying to grab the limelight. I would not be surprised if that record has not been broken more than a few times, Mull said.


Here’s how the records match up:

Indiana: 79.8 pounds

Illinois: 78.0 pounds

Ohio: 76.5 pounds

Wisconsin: 74.5 pounds

Minnesota: 70 pounds

Michigan: 49.8 pounds

Pennsylvania: 48.6 pounds

New York: no record

Ontario: no record

4 thoughts on “Michigan catfish don’t quite measure up

  1. Sorry, Biggen, but if you don’t register your catch–and if it’s not verified–then it doesn’t count as a record. Must’ve been fun to catch, though.

  2. your data is incorrect im afraid.
    i personally have caught 2 in Ohio larger then 76.5Lbs.
    1 in a private pond and 1 at Captain Anthony Meldahl Locks and Dam.
    sad that MI doesn’t have the huge Blue’s and Flathead action Ohio has..

  3. Holy catfish! Look at the mouth on that thing. It could swallow your gobies whole, Tom.

  4. I caught a cat fish longer than my leg once, got it on video, I let them go. Talk about size, I went to the Grand Haven pier yesterday, a guy had 2 Giant Gobies at least 12 inches long, and 3 inches around. I had heard stories of giant gobies at Grand Haven, these belong on the DNR wall of shame.

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