Couple Shatters Catfish Record At Fort Gibson Lake

Thursday, July 23rd 2015, 7:26 pm
By: Tess Maune

There's a new catfish record at Fort Gibson Lake. It was caught by a 65-year-old woman with the help of her 70-year-old husband.

The previous was 56.5 pounds, but the couple blew that record out of the water with a blue cat that weighed nearly 74 pounds.

For almost 50 years, fishing together is what marriage has looked like for Denver and Jessie Harless.

“Fishing together. Fish together, stay together,” Jessie said.

They're out on the banks of Fort Gibson Lake at least twice week, pretty much every chance they get.

“Wednesday and Thursday, on my days off. I love to fish,” she laughed.

The couple's love for fishing is never about catching trophies, although Jessie does kid about it sometimes.

“I'm always joking, I say, 'I got a whale, I got a whale,'” she said.

But before she could even get the words out last Thursday, her joke almost became a reality.

7/17/2015 Related Story: Peggs Couple Lands Record-Setting Catfish

“He [the catfish] took my pole to the water and he just keep going taking my line off and I'm yelling at him [her husband], 'Help me for Pete's sake, help me,’" Jessie said.

So her husband stepped in and started reeling.

“I was hanging on for dear life,” Denver said.

At the time, neither had any idea the giant blue catfish was on the other end of her line.

“The fish would go down river, the fish would go up, the fish would go down, the fish would go up,” Jessie explained.

That went on for almost an hour until Denver could land it on a rock.

“We're not young and we don't have a lot muscle,” Jessie said with a laugh.

And for that reason, getting the fish to a safe place to be weighed was more of a challenge than reeling it in.

“So he got his hand in his gills, but he couldn't push him up because he was too heavy, and about that time my hook fell out of his mouth. And I said, 'He's not hooked no more, and my husband said, 'Do something, do something, get ahold of him, pull him out,’” Jessie said.

She grabbed it and the big blue bit hard, so she tried a few other things before managing to string the monster.

They called a Wildlife Department biologist who verified the blue catfish set a new lake record at Ft. Gibson - 73.6 pounds, 4-feet-1-inch long and 36 inches around.

Jessie: “Huge.”
Denver: “Bigger 'round than me.”
Jessie: “Bigger 'round than him.”

The biologist told them the fish was more than 100 years old, so they let it go, which was their plan all along.

Jessie: “After about 40 pounds, they're too tough.”
Denver: “Plus he was supposed to be over 100 years old, I couldn't bring myself to kill a fish like that.”

Jessie was so concerned with keeping the cat alive that she didn't even think to pose with the fish, but Denver did, which means they've got the pictures - along with that lake record - to prove their story isn't just another fish tale.

“It was funny. If you would have had a camera watching us, you would have won America's Funniest Home Video, you would have,” Jessie laughed.

Now to answer the question everyone is asking, what did they catch it on? They used fresh shad that they caught with a throw net and cut up.