Arizona Game and Fish Department officials announced Friday the catch of record-setting flathead catfish that weighed in at 76.52 pounds. The fish measured 53.5 inches, or nearly four-and-a-half feet, in length, and had a 34.75 inches, or nearly three feet, girth.
Eddie “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson, 56, of Surprise, was asleep on a fold-out cot aboard his 24-foot pontoon boat early Friday on Bartlett Lake minutes before he caught the catfish that AZGFD later verified as the state’s largest.
Bartlett Lake is about 45 minutes northeast of Phoenix, in the Tonto National Forest.
“Everybody’s got the same chance I do,” Wilcoxson said in a prepared statement. “You just have to get out and do it.”
The catch bumps out Arizona’s previous heaviest recorded fish, which was caught by Walter Wilson, of Bard, Calif., who landed a 74-pound flathead catfish in 1988 from the Colorado River.
Additionally, Wilcoxson’s catch prevailed over Arizona’s previous inland waters state record that was set in 2003 after Adrian Manzanedo, of Florence, reeled in a 71-pound, 10.24-ounce flathead at San Carlos Lake, east of Phoenix.
Friday, Wilcoxson was in the yellow cliffs area of Bartlett Lake fishing in 35-38 feet of water over a rock pile. He caught the flathead catfish using an Ugly Stik fishing rod, Okuma 45D reel, 60-pound braided line, an 18-inch steel leader with SPRO Power Swivel, and a two-pound live carp as bait. Wilcoxson’s fishing buddy, Bill Stewart, also of Surprise, was also on the boat.
“When it came close to the boat, I saw there was only one treble hook in the corner of his mouth, Wilcoxson stated. “I backed off on the drag. If not, it would’ve ripped right out of his mouth.”
Wilcoxson owns AZ Fishing 4 Flathead Cat fishing guide service. He fishes three or four days at a time, and fished 39 weekends in 2012. Wilcoxson is native to Arizona and has been fishing its waters his whole life.
Bartlett Lake also produced the state’s record carp, which weighed 37 pounds and measured 40 inches. It was caught by Jonathan Gardner, of Phoenix, in 1987.