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Big catch

June 13, 2013 Hunting

Zach Spangler shows off a huge flathead catfish he caught in the Ohio River earlier this week.

EMSWORTH — Some fish are worth the wait.

Zach Spangler bided his time with some baseball buddies as they fished by the Emsworth Dam on the Ohio River.

The sun had set, it was past 11 p.m. and Spangler had nothing to show for the Monday night of fishing.

“We were about five minutes away from calling it a night,” said Spangler.

But Spangler’s rod, anchored down by a 10-pound rock, began to move.

Actually, it took off.

Spangler ran it down and soon realized a strong and quite stubborn fish had fallen for the dead bluefish bait on the other side of his 20-pound braided line.

“I grabbed the rod and it took about 25 minutes to reel it in. I had to be really careful the whole time,” said Spangler. “I would get it close to shore and then it would swim back to the middle of the river. ... It was nearly pulling me in.”

Spangler — a recent Seneca Valley graduate and Kent State baseball recruit — eventually reeled in the largest flathead catfish he has ever laid eyes on.

His friend, Justin Dattilo, went into the water and pulled out the behemoth by the mouth.

“We were fishing for flathead catfish, but I wasn’t expecting that,” said Spangler. “A guy who has been fishing there for a long time said it was the biggest one he’s ever seen before.

“I could barely lift up the fish,” he added. “I could fit my entire head in its mouth.”

They threw the fish onto their scale to see just how big it was, but it didn’t provide much help.

“Our scale almost broke,” said Spangler. “The scale only went up to 40-something pounds, but it was 50 at least.”

The official Pennsylvania record for a flathead catfish is 48 pounds, 6 ounces. However, Spangler explained most people wouldn’t report such a catch and after much consideration, the group decided to throw it back.

“I’m sure there’s been 50-pounders caught before. There’s no point in killing a catfish just for that reason,” he said. “We debated keeping it and turning it in. It was the middle of the night and we didn’t want to have to kill it and try to find a place to keep it, so we let it go.

“It was hard to throw it back,” he admitted. “I wanted to keep it, but it would have been such a hassle.”

It was Spangler’s fourth time fishing at that spot, but the first time he caught something.

The largest catfish he had ever previously reeled in was about 15 pounds.

Spangler — who has been fishing since he was 3 years old and goes about four times a week over the summer — doesn’t expect to see another one like Monday night for quite a while.

“Not for a very long time,” he said.