Franklin’s Catfish Derby Sees Its Biggest Fish In 38-year History

Steve Fisher of South Haven holds the 52-pound, 5-ounce flathead catfish that puts him in the record books for the biggest caught in the 38-year history of Franklin’s Catfish Derby.

Some monster catfish have been pulled from the Minnesota River in the 38-year history of the Catfish Derby held in Franklin, but none bigger than the 52-pound, 5-ounce behemoth caught this year by Steve Fisher of South Haven.

The Derby’s record breaking fish was caught in the middle of the night, July 26-27. A sleepy Fisher was alone in his boat when his rod bent over and it was “fish on.’’

Fisher and his buddies have been fishing large flatheads for about eight years now, mainly in the Belle Plaine and Jordan areas. He entered the Catfish Derby last year for the first time. He said he had a great time, although the 12-pounder he caught last year wasn’t worth the bother to register.

He knew things were different this year the instant the big fish hit.

Fisher said it’s hard to beat the excitement that comes when a big flathead strikes. “When that big head comes to the surface and he is in the light, it can be really intimidating,’’ he said. “It’s like wow, oh my.’’

His only disappointment is that the 41-inch long, aerated cooler he used to keep the fish until it could be entered was probably not adequate for the job. The big fish was 47-inches long. It was alive and kicking when brought to the judges and put in a holding tank, but later expired.

Fisher is donating the fish to the Long Branch Saloon in Franklin, which will mount it and keep it on permanent display.

Fisher normally releases all of his big catfish, and vows next year to come with a far bigger cooler to hold any potential record breaker.

This was by far the biggest flathead he has caught to date, but he’s not done. Now that he’s cracked the 50-pound mark, Fisher said he intends to work on breaking the state record of 70 pounds.

He’s not giving away any secrets on bait or technique used, but would say this about what it takes to catch a monster flathead: “Patience.’’

Adrenalin helped him land the big fish, but it isn’t his arms that were tired by the experience. It was the muscles in his cheeks after smiling and being congratulated over and over at the Derby. He said there is no over-stating how nice everyone was to him in Franklin, where he was treated like a rock star. “A great bunch of people, he said.