A crappie fishing trip turned into a record-setter for a Michigan man in another species.
Dale Blakley, of Niles, caught a 53-pound, 46-inch flathead catfish on Monday, Jan. 13, on Barron Lake in Cass County at 3 p.m.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the catch as a state record.
Blakley was ice fishing for crappies when he landed the record fish, verified by Brian Gunderman, a MDNR fisheries biologist, at the Plainwell office.
The previous state record flathead catfish was caught by Rodney Akey, of Niles, on the St. Joseph River in Berrien County on May 22, 2012. It weighed 49.8 pounds and measured 45.7 inches. Prior to that, the record hadn't been broken since 1943.
Blakley said, "It was only the second time I've gone ice fishing and it was the only bite we had on the lake the whole day. This definitely sits at the top of my list!"
Flathead catfish typically inhabit large river systems, like the nearby St. Joseph River.
Based on the size of this fish, it mysteriously found its way into Barron Lake several years ago, perhaps through illegal stocking, as there are no direct connections to the large river system.
Anglers are reminded that transferring fish from one water body to another is prohibited because such transfers can disrupt the fish community in the receiving water through predation, competition with native species, or introduction of new disease-causing organisms.
State records are recognized by weight only.
To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.
"We've had numerous state records broken in the last couple of years, further showcasing the quality of Michigan's fisheries," commented DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter.