With a piece of mackerel for bait, a 30-year-old fishing rod and a radar fish-detector in his boat, 72-year-old Wayne Chappell reeled in a 42-pound catfish Tuesday, the biggest fish ever caught at Lake Casitas.
After being weighed at a local market, photographed and shown off swimming in a horse trough at Chappell’s Ojai home, the monstrous and hearty fish was brought back to the lake and released.
Chappell’s catch breaks a Casitas record set in 1972 when a 41-pound catfish was caught, said Randy King, manager of Casitas Boat Rental.
It took about 15 minutes to reel in the fish after it ran with about 250 feet of 10-pound-test fishing line in the Dead Horse Canyon area at the southeast end of the lake, Chappell said. Chappell’s fishing partners, Darrell Bowyer and Ed Baumgart of Ojai Valley, helped pull the fish into the boat.
“It was so big I could barely pick it up,” Chappell said. “Its head broke right through the net.”
The big fish was laden with eggs, so he didn’t consider keeping it, Chappell said.
“It was an incredible fish,” King said. “It was a prehistoric-looking, ugly thing. Its head approximated Chappell’s girth.”
Chappell said he’s been fishing at the lake nearly every week since it opened for recreation in 1962 and brings home a catch nearly every time. Even though he let his record-breaking catch go free, he’ll still be eating fish this week, feasting on a 14-pounder he caught the same morning, he said.