Two Texas anglers recently caught an absolutely giant flathead catfish—using only their hands. Justin White and Drew Moore were noodling at Lake Tawakoni, which is east of Dallas, on June 23 when they made the epic catch. The fish will go down as one of the biggest fish ever noodled.
Two weeks before the catch, White and Moore found a new fishing spot—a hole 14 feet beneath a concrete slope under a bridge. They caught two 30-pounders but thought they might be able to find bigger fish in the cove. When they returned on the evening of the 23rd, a storm forced them to take cover under the bridge, right by the fishing spot.
“When the storm passed, we geared up and jumped off the side of the boat with the intention of catching a good one,” Moore tells Field & Stream. “We didn’t know quite what we were getting ourselves into.”
The duo used a Hookahmax Dive System to breathe underwater. They descended to the hole and entered it through a relatively small rectangular opening, an experience that White describes as “very eerie.”
“After you swim under this concrete, you go for 5 or 6 feet before you get to where the fish is sitting,” says Moore. “We knew we were getting close to the bed when all hell broke loose.”
A massive catfish started ramming them. The two men struggled to subdue the fish, but eventually, they managed to pinch it between them and get a hand in its mouth. By then, they were disoriented and had to use the hose from the Hookahmax to guide them out of the underwater hole. “We still had to swim up 14 feet with this fish, which is a pretty tricky thing to do,” says Moore. “Anybody can grab one of these fish, but not everyone can hang onto them.”
Eventually, they wrangled the fish to the surface and used an oversized stringer to subdue it. “We didn’t know what to think at that point,” says Moore. “The fish’s head was as wide as our chest and the lips were the size of a Gatorade bottle. It was really hard to judge exactly what we’d caught.”
The Fish Could Go Down as the Biggest Catfish Ever Noodled
White and Moore used handheld scales to try to weigh the fish. One showed 103 pounds, and another showed 108 pounds. After celebrating, they decided to bring the fish to Duck Cove Marina to use an official scale. To get the fish there alive, they had to stop every couple of minutes to let it swim. On the certified scale, it came in at a whopping 98.7 pounds. “We were pumped, man,” says Moore. “It was very rewarding to know we’ve busted our asses for years and it finally paid off.”
Noodling is an alternative method of fishing that is included in the IGFA World Record Book. The anglers say that their catch may go down as the biggest catfish ever noodled and weighed on a certified scale. In 2021, Field & Stream reported on an Oklahoma man who noodled a 106-pounder in Texas, but that fish was released without being weighed on a certified scale. Moore and White are enjoying their moment of fame, but they plan to get back out on the water soon.
“The biggest thing about hand fishing for me is the adrenaline rush. I did it one time, and I’ve been hooked ever since. You go down there and get bit. It’s something that don’t ever get old,” says White. “Our goal has always been to beat the 100-pound mark. We often joked that if we beat it, we would just retire. Luckily, we didn’t beat it. That’s what we’re after now.”