N.C. angler catches new state record flathead catfish

state record flathead catfish
Tyler Barnes of Pikeville, N.C. caught the new state record flathead from the Neuse River on July 20, 2020.

State record flathead catfish bit a live bream

Tyler Barnes of Pikeville, N.C. caught the pending new North Carolina state record flathead catfish on the early morning of July 20 while fishing on the Neuse River. He caught the fish on a live bream near a log jam in about 5 feet of water. The fish weighed 78.9 pounds, was 52 inches long, and had a girth of 37 inches.

He caught the fish using a Penn Fathom reel, a 7’6″ medium-heavy Big Cat Fever Rod, 120-pound J-Braid braided main line, 80-pound Hi Seas Quattro leader, and a 9/0 Charlie Brown circle hook.

Barnes’ flathead beat the previous N.C. state record by .9 pounds. That record, a 78-pound flathead caught out of the Cape Fear River by Brian Newberger, stood for almost 15 years.

Barnes was fishing in his fourth spot of the night when the big fish hit. Upon setting the hook, the fish began running, peeling drag out at an incredible rate. He knew it was a good fish.

“I didn’t snatch it because it’s a circle hook. But I just gave it enough where it would set the hook in him. Once I did that, it was on. The line was just peeling off the reel. I cranked the drag down just a little bit, just enough to turn him towards me. I get him up beside the boat and he takes off again, just like I don’t even have any drag,” he said.

After a few similar runs, Barnes, who was fishing alone, finally tuckered the fish out enough to try landing it. After a few unsuccessful attempts at netting fish, he was able to grab the fish with his bare hands and hoist it aboard his SeaArk.

The angler immediately realized the fish as a potential state record

“I threw the net down and grabbed the fish by the bottom lip with both hands and got him up beside the boat. And I guess I had so much adrenaline going, I just put him right in the boat like he weighed 5 pounds,” he said.

Just a few days earlier, Barnes had caught a 50.8-pound flathead. He realized this fish was considerably bigger than that one. So he put the fish in his net and weighed it on his scales, which registered 81.6 pounds. He turned the scale off and back on, then weighed it again. This time, it showed 82 pounds. Deducting a couple of pounds for the net, he realized it was hovering right around what was currently the state record.

He filled his huge livewell with water and added some G-Juice Livewell Treatment. Then he headed to EZ Bait & Tackle in Goldsboro. Barnes is currently fishing in EZ’s yearly catfish tournament, and the store has a large holding tank for anglers to use, no matter the time of day. He called a friend who headed to the store in order to fill the tank with water and get some air pumps going.

Even in those wee morning hours, word spread, and by the time Barnes reached the store, about 20 people were there to see the fish. They weighed in on EZ Bait’s certified scales which showed 78.9 pounds. Barnes called several NCWRC contacts, but it was still long before daylight and it took more than an hour and a half before anyone called back.

NCWRC weighs, certifies record fish

The big catfish seemed right at home in the big tank, but fish can easily lose weight due to stress while out of their own environment. They can also spit up their last meal and lose weight that way. And getting a state record certified requires a marine biologist to weigh the fish themselves.

Ben Ricks of NCWRC called Barnes back, and headed to Goldsboro. Upon his arrival, they weighed the fish. The scales once again registered 78.9 pounds.

After filling out the necessary paperwork, Barnes, started the waiting game again. As a participant in EZ Bait’s catfish tournament, he had to wait for the store to open to have this fish counted. And for the third time on the same scale, it weighed 78.9 pounds. This landed Barnes in first place for the tournament, which ends on Aug. 31.

Then, along with the help of some friends, Barnes released the fish back into the Neuse River. The fish easily swam off under its own power and with no complications. This, said Barnes, was just as satisfying to him as being the new state record holder.

July 2020 has been quite a month for catfish anglers in the Old North State. Aside from Barnes’ record-setting flathead, Joey Baird caught the new North Carolina state record blue catfish on Lake Gaston during the first week of the month.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1667 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of CarolinaSportsman.com. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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