BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
On May 11, 2022, at approximate 5:30 p.m., Dakota Gravitt, a member of the Conservation Lake Fishing Club (CLFC), and his guest Nekko Cantrell were making an effort to catch a large catfish they had observed feeding beneath a fish feeder with chicken livers as their bait.
Cantrell landed a large Brown Bullhead Catfish and alerted Charlie Kennedy, club manager who was nearby.
Kennedy’s reaction was, “That’s the biggest mudcat I’ve ever seen. Most of the ones we catch here are about a pound or so.”
Tackle box scales were used to weigh the fish and the weight was 5 lbs. 10 oz.
Kennedy suspected it might be a state record and after a quick internet search found the current Alabama Brown Bullhead record was 4 lbs. 3 oz.
He told Cantrell, “You may have a state record there, don’t let him get away”.
The next morning, Kennedy called the Alabama Fisheries Division in Montgomery to find out the procedure to have the fish certified.
He spoke to Damon Abernathy, assistant division chief, who told him to get the fish weighed on certified scales and if it was heavier than 4 lbs. 3 oz. to call him back.
He also suggested the U.S. Post Office would be the best location to find certified scales.
Kennedy called the post office and spoke with Tim Clark, post office supervisor, and he agreed to weigh the fish on the their scales.
The fish was put in a five gallon bucket, wrapped in a plastic grocery bag, and taken to the post office by Kennedy and assistant club manager Ron Rice.
Clark was not at the window so Kennedy asked the clerk if it would be possible to mail a catfish to Montgomery.
She asked if it was packaged and he said “Not really, it’s in a Wal-Mart bag in this bucket. I thought maybe you could just weigh it and put a label on its head” (No harm in a bit of fun on a Thursday morning). She called loudly, “Tim, I need some help out here!”
Clark took the fish and put it on the scales and it displayed 5 lbs. 8 oz. The next step was to call Abernethy and continue the state record certification process.
Abernethy informed that the fish would have to be observed and verified by an Alabama Fisheries Division Biologist and said, “I don’t have a busy schedule today, I think I’ll drive down to the lake and have a look at it myself.”
He arrived a couple of hours later and thoroughly examined the fish. After reviewing the weight certification from the post office he declared the fish to be a new state record Brown Bullhead Catfish (subject to official application and certification).
On June 24, Kennedy received the following message from Abernethy:
“Dear Mr. Kennedy,
“We have received the application submitted by you on behalf of Nekko Cantrell. I am pleased to inform you that the application has been accepted and certified. We’ve updated the state record list to include his fish in the upcoming digest, which should be available to the public within the next month or two.
“He will get a certificate signed by the Governor, Commissioner, Director, and the Chief of Fisheries. It may take a little while to get that done (they like to sign those in batches).”
The procedure for certification of an Alabama State Record Freshwater Fish includes: the fish must be caught in Alabama waters by legal means; it must be identified by a fisheries section biologist or other certified fisheries biologist; it must be weighed on certified scales; the weighing must be witnessed by two people; the application must be submitted on official application form; and the application form must be notarized.
There are five species of Bullhead Catfish found in Alabama’s rivers, creeks and lakes and farm ponds. The Brown Bullhead is the most numerous species found in manmade lakes and farm ponds in South Alabama.
Brown Bullheads adults typically are 12-18 inches long and weigh 1-2 lbs. They are commonly known in Alabama as mudcats or pollywogs.
Other Bullhead species found in Alabama include: Black Bullhead, Yellow Bullhead, Snail Bullhead, and Spotted Bullhead.
Conservation Lake was constructed in 1969 by the Butler County Conservation Club. The conservation club relocated to another lake in 1992 and the lease was acquired by Kennedy. He organized the CLFC at that time.