| Gene Atwood holds the 68-pound catfish he landed at Marion Reservoir May 10. He later released it back in the lake.
Don’t call him Ishmael. Call him Gene Atwood.
On May 10, Atwood hooked a lake-record 681⁄2-pound flathead catfish at Marion Reservoir.
“My wife and I were trolling for walleye in 22 or 23 feet of water,” he said. “Earlier in the day, my wife and I had been catching small walleye in the shallows, and we decided to go to the deeper area around Cottonwood Point toward French Creek.”
Atwood was using 12-pound test line and a Thunderstick lure.
“We started catching keeper walleyes in that area,” he said. “Then I hooked one that took 35 or 40 minutes to get to the top of the water, and still couldn’t get it out. So my wife grabbed the dip net and put a life jacket on.
“But when the thing came to the top of the water, she put the dip net down and took her life jacket off and told me she couldn’t help me.”
Even with help from a nearby boat, it took an additional hour and 20 minutes to get the hulking goujon into Atwood’s vessel.
“I was about ready to cut him loose—I was tired!” Atwood said. “But we flagged down a young man from McPherson named Brian Stauffer, who came over and helped out. He lifted it into his boat, then into ours.
“There wasn’t a lot of boats out there that evening, and we were just fortunate that Brian came as close as he did.”
Later that day, at Canada Bait ‘N Tackle near Hillsboro Cove, the fish measured 49 inches from tip to tail.
“It was fun, I’ll say that,” Atwood said, “and when it was over, I thought I should release him and let someone else have some fun.”
Atwood, of Whitewater, is the meat-market manager at Vogt’s Hometown Market in Hillsboro.
“We try to fish at the reservoir about three weeks a year,” he said, “and I always try to catch early May for the best walleye fishing. The first two weeks of May is the best, in my opinion.”
In addition to the record-setter, Atwood netted several walleye.
“I don’t know exactly how many walleye we caught that day, 14 or 15 keepers on the whole trip, I suppose—and we were out here for 10 or 12 days,” he said.”