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State Record Flathead Catfish Caught
at El Reno Lake
 Ron Cantrell of El Reno, pulled in a 72-pound, 8-ounce flathead catfish from El Reno Lake. The new state record fish was transported to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. It is hoped that the fish will be on display in coming weeks.  Asialynn Cantrell, granddaughter of angler Ron Cantrell, sizes up the new state record flathead catfish. Asialynn enjoys going fishing with her grandpa, but she prefers fishing for sunfish rather than huge flatheads.

May 27, 2004 - Admittedly, state record fish are sometimes caught by accident. Occasionally fortune smiles on some lucky angler, like the fisherman who recently caught a state record walleye while catfishing or the state record smallmouth buffalo that was caught while the angler was fishing for walleye last year.

However, more often than not, skilled and knowledgeable anglers catch record fish. Ron "Barefoot" Cantrell of El Reno is the perfect example. He now holds the state rod and line record for flathead catfish with a 72-pound, 8-ounce brute of a fish he caught from El Reno Lake.

"I've met a lot of catfishermen over the years and he is the best one I know," said Ron Comer, state game warden stationed in Canadian County. "It doesn't surprise me one bit he broke the record."

Cantrell uses a refined technique of catfishing, which incorporates a balloon that serves as both a bobber and a sail to drift his bait far from shore to "where the big boys are." Although conventional wisdom among flathead anglers have long preached the use of live baits such as sunfish, goldfish or shad, Cantrell prefers cut shad. He hooked the record fish on a large gizzard shad head the evening of May 20 nearly 100 yards from shore.

"As soon as I got a look at it I told my fishing buddy to get a tape measure. He was sure enough a big one," Cantrell said.

Cantrell certainly knows what a big flathead looks like. In October of 2002 Cantrell hooked a flathead that was just a few ounces shy of the state record. After landing the big fish, it was several hours before the fish was officially weighed and measured. Fish held on a stringer for long periods tend to loose weight, however. Had he secured a big enough State Department of Agriculture certified scale in the vicinity sooner, it's likely his 2002 fish could have topped the existing record of 71 pounds.

Just missing the mark by a few ounces didn't deter the angler. Some 19 months and dozens of big flatheads later, Cantrell's persistence and unique angling skills finally paid off.

"I was personally happy for Barefoot to finally get the record after getting so close before," said Comer. "He not only knows how to catch the big ones, but he puts in a lot of days out there (at El Reno Lake) throughout the year."

The new state record fish measures 35 inches around and 51 1/4 inches in length and was weighed on certified scales at Ross Seed Company in El Reno.

A 72 and a half pound fish would have been enough excitement in one night for most anglers, but not Cantrell.

"I couldn't stop fishing when they were just starting to bite," Cantrell said.

That same night he caught two more flatheads weighing 45 and 68 pounds. Anyone who catches a stringer of three fish that weigh 185 pounds is either very lucky or very good. But none of them were keepers at least not for Cantrell.

"I nearly always let them go so they can grow up a little. I only keep a few to eat every year," he said.

As for the new record flathead - it has been transported to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks. It is hoped that the fish will be on display in coming weeks.

Barry Bolton, assistant fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department says Cantrell's release practice is commendable.

"It is great to hear that these big fish are going back into the lake," Bolton said. "After all, a 40-pound fish may be up to 30 years old, and a 60-pound fish may be up to 40 years old."

The previous flathead record of 71 pounds was set by James Skipper who pulled the catfish from Oologah Lake in May of 1998.

For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the "2004 Oklahoma Fishing Guide." If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.




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