A lot of people think that big fish only get that way in big waters. Dennis Reilly of Bamberg knows better now, but until recently he had no idea how big of a fish could live in the relatively small waters of the South Edisto River in his home county.

Checking his set lines on the morning of April 7, Reilly was pleased to discover that many nice catfish had taken his baits, but especially a 67-pound flathead that had swallowed a bait.

"It was so big and heavy I thought a gator was on the other end of my line when I first grabbed it!" Reilly said.




Big flatheads are nothing new for Reilly; just last year, he caught one that weighed in at 50 pounds, but his latest catch is by far the biggest he has taken from the South Edisto.




Reilly's falthead was slightly larger than 51 inches long, with a head that was a foot wide. No doubt many a redbreast, other gamefish, and who knows what else, met their ends because of this catfish.




While catching a big flathead is exciting, most anglers, including Reilly, would rather they not be in the Edisto at all. Not native to South Carolina, flatheads are big, invasive predators that competes with smaller, native catfish, such as bullheads. They have an appetite mostly for live fish, but it can fit almost anything in its oversized mouth.




The S.C. Department of Natural Resources said flatheads have "profound impacts on native catfish and sunfish" and that all three species of bullheads are now rare and redbreast sunfish populations are drastically smaller in the South Edisto.



Reilly prefers to set lines for catfish downstream of Brabham's Landing off Canon Bridge Road near Bamberg. He uses heavy nylon line, 10/0 hooks and a half-ounce sinker on each set line; the bait of choice is a small, live bream. To comply with SCDNR regulations, he waits until one hour before sundown before setting any lines on overhanging branches and checks and removes them by one hour after sunrise the next day. this works out fine because fishing for cats is generally much better at night, especially if bigger flatheads are the target.