Woman snags 50-pound catfish at Patoka Lake


Photos courtesy of Trisha McAffoose.
Trisha McAfoose of Dubois caught a 50-pound, flathead catfish while fishing with trotlines in Patoka Lake on Sunday.

PATOKA LAKE — Anytime Trisha McAfoose gives a big war whoop from across Patoka Lake, her husband, Doug, knows she’s caught a big one.

Trisha was checking and baiting her trotlines at Patoka Lake Sunday evening when she found something she never expected on a line — a 50-pound, flathead catfish.

“I was like, ‘Boy, I don’t know if my net is big enough,’” the Dubois resident said. “I was baiting lines and had a bucket and three other fish in my kayak, but I was determined to get it (the 50-pound catfish) on there somehow.”

Doug was catching bait for Trisha on the bank when he heard her bellow.

“There was a guy standing and talking to me, and I said, ‘Well, she must have a good one,’” Doug recalled.

“What do you mean by a good one?” the guy asked.

“Well, she must have one that’s a good 35 pounds or bigger,” Doug replied.

When Trisha brought in the 50-pounder, Doug said all the guy standing with him said was, “Oh, my God.”

“But, it didn’t surprise me any,” said Doug, who’s been trotline fishing for nearly 25 years.

It doesn’t surprise Penny Estridge, the general manager of Patoka Lake Boat and Marine, either. “They are in there,” she said. “We do know that.”

The largest catfish she’s seen come from the lake was 51 pounds and that was nearly five years ago. She said she’s also seen 8-, 9- and 10-pound bass.

Trisha’s largest catch before Sunday was a 40-pound catfish, but they’re usually much smaller than that. Doug said the biggest he’s ever caught on a trotline was 54 pounds, although that wasn’t at Patoka.

He said Sunday’s catch was unusual because usually the catfish are caught at night and Trisha will find them on the lines when she checks them in the morning. Sunday, Trisha found the 50-pounder when baiting the lines in the evening.

Trisha began fishing on trotlines just last year and was immediately hooked. She said she fished for about a month-and-a-half straight. A trotline is a strong fishing line strung across a body of water. Smaller, baited lines are strung at various intervals across a trotline.

Sunday, Mother’s Day, was Trisha’s first trotline fishing excursion this year.

“I put the trot lines in Patoka Lake, bait them up, carry a net with me,” Trisha said. “Sometimes I get a little fish, sometimes a big one.”

While she’s fairly new to trotline fishing, she’s enjoyed the sport of fishing since she was a child when she would go with her dad any chance she got.

Her husband’s love for fishing was how she knew he was the one for her.

“When I met him,” Trisha said, “I told my sister, ‘I found a man who cleans fish!’”

The couple used to take their kids — Jordan, 25; Justin, 21; Jace, 20; and Jessica, 18 — fishing often. Mostly for bluegill and crappie. Doug, who’s originally from Pennsylvania, said some of his favorite memories are of family fishing days at Lake Helmerich.

Trisha’s 50-pound catfish will be good eats for the family, as Trisha said about half of the fish’s weight is meat. They like catfish deep-fried and sometimes baked.

A 50-pound catfish was also caught at Patoka Lake around this time last year.

The Herald published a story on May 16, 2016 about Jamie Schepers, Mandy Gress, Kyle Livingston and Jessie Schepers snagging a 50-pounder on their trotline the weekend before at Patoka. At that time, Rebecca Munter, a fishery biologist for the Department of Natural Resources district based at the Sugar Ridge Fish and Wildlife Office in Winslow, told The Herald that Patoka Lake has an abundance of gizzard shad, an invasive species of small herring found throughout the Midwest and southern United States. The gizzard shad are excellent food for bottom-feeding catfish, Munter said, and their abundance at Patoka Lake has fostered conditions in which catfish can live for up to 30 years.

She estimated a 50-pound catfish to be 20 to 30 years old.

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