When Marvin Lodge showed friends and a sporting goods dealer a catfish he had caught while dunking a worm below the Spokane River’s Upriver Dam last week, they were convinced that he had caught a new state record brown bullhead catfish.
The fish, they said, might be a new world record for the species.
Fortunately, Lodge, a longtime catfish angler, had the forethought to put his catfish in a cooler partially filled with water. The fish was still in good shape.
Larry Bryant, owner of the Water Hole Sports Shop on East Francis, persuaded Lodge to have the fish weighed on a certified scale, with witnesses observing and signing a paper. He was certain that the fish was a brown bullhead catfish.
Lodge and friends, each of whom insisted that he had caught hundreds, even thousands, of catfish in various lakes and streams throughout the Inland Northwest and therefore was an expert on catfish, took the 25-inch-long catfish to a nearby grocery store and weighed and measured it. They had a couple of people signing a paper saying they witnessed the weighing. The friends even photographed Lodge holding the fish.
Bryant put the catfish in another cooler in which he kept “waterdogs,” salamanders that bass fishermen often use. The catfish promptly dined on some of the waterdogs.
To understand why so many fishermen were excited over the catch, you should know that the state record for a brown bullhead catfish is 3.87 pounds. Lodge’s catfish weighed 6.67 pounds. The world record is only a few ounces more than 6 pounds.
Lodge’s catfish fit brown bullhead descriptions in a couple of books, including “Freshwater Game Fish of North America,” and “Comprehensive Guide to Western Gamefish.” The tail of Lodge’s fish was not deeply forked like those of the channel catfish. There were no spots on the fish; nearly all channel cats have spots.
“The tail was slightly heart-shaped,” Lodge said. “Although the fish has been handled numerous times and has taken a beating in the cooler, the tail is the same shape as when I caught it.
“The bottom, rear (anal) fin has 25 spines. I counted them several times. I think the channel catfish has fewer.”
As far as all of Lodge’s friends knew, no one ever had caught a channel catfish in the Spokane River. The river is full of brown bullheads, but not channel catfish.
Lodge and friends took his catfish to the Fish and Wildlife Department office on North Division to have it positively identified.
Ray Duff, Spokane regional fisheries manager for the Fish and Wildlife Department, identified Lodge’s fish as a channel catfish, despite the fact it didn’t have a deeply forked tail and no spots on its sides. If any fisheries biologist in Eastern Washington is an authority on catfish, Duff is the one. He has been fisheries manager for both the Spokane region and the Columbia Basin for many years.
Duff said the fish probably is an Idaho gift to the Spokane River.
It’s possible that some channel catfish have migrated out of Lake Coeur d’Alene and into the Spokane River. Fernan Lake at the north end of the city of Coeur d’Alene has channel cats and some could swim from Fernan into the big lake during high water. Several years ago, channel cats were released into the lower St. Joe River; a few of them could now be in the Spokane River.
The only fisherman who wasn’t disappointed when Duff issued his assessment was Lodge. As far as he was concerned, he couldn’t have cared less about setting new records.
“I was just curious as to what kind of catfish it was,” he said. He did have one consolation, if he needed one. His fish is the first channel catfish confirmed by Washington officials to have been caught in the Spokane River.
Lodge’s catfishing friends, all of whom have caught both brown bullheads and channel cats, are still convinced that his fish was a brown bullhead catfish.
Lodge lives near the Spokane River and likes to walk from his home to his favorite spot just below Upriver Dam, bait a hook with a nightcrawler and a salmon egg or two and enjoy himself as he waits for a brown bullhead to pick up his bait.
He’s been doing that for 15 years. Nearly every balmy evening this summer, he’ll be in his favorite spot content to catch bullheads big enough to fillet.
, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.
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