It was an overcast, rainy day on Long Island when my brother Kyle, my friend Ricky Hutter and I set out to capture a beast. The beast was a monster albino channel catfish between 15 and 20 pounds that was swimming in a local lake. We had seen the fish cruising the lake a week before and were intent on catching it. The three of us headed down to the shore around 6 p.m. with a heavy rain falling, feeling the low light and murky water would have him feeding. We brought along a kayak and heavier saltwater gear than we normally used to fish the lake. Included in our arsenal was a custom made, 7-foot spinning rod made by White Water Outfitters in Hampton Bays. It was paired with a Penn Slammer 3, size 4000. We also had a 7-foot Shimano baitcaster paired with an Avet XJ spooled with 30-pound Spiderwire braid.
After unloading our gear, Ricky and I started rigging the rods with 5 feet of 14-pound fluorocarbon leader, a 3/0 J-hook, and a bobber 2 feet above the hook. For bait we used shad chunks. Shad are plentiful in this body of water and are most likely what the fish was feeding on. We used as big a chunk as possible, insuring that nothing else would take the bait besides this beast. After we rigged up and baited the hooks it was time to drop the baits. This is where the kayak comes into play. Kyle and Ricky held the rods in free-spool while I attached the lines to the kayak, and paddled the baits out 100 yards from shore. Where you place the bait is a methodical process that can improve your odds. I specifically placed two out of the three baits next to a drop-off near bluegill nests hoping that it would be a good ambush point for a hungry catfish. The third bait was dropped into a deeper, cooler part of the lake.
On my way back to shore, the rain suddenly stopped, the sky changed from cloudy to a bright orange and red, and a big rainbow stretched across the sky. It almost felt like luck was on our side and this was our chance to land the fish of a lifetime. Once I got back to shore, Ricky and I set the reels to free spool and turned the clickers on so that we would hear when we got a bite.
It was 7:15 p.m. as we settled down to wait. Less than 10 minutes passed when the Avet XJ starts screaming. Ricky and I jumped up and grabbed the rod as line poured off the reel. I pushed the lever to strike and set the hook. We all looked at each other and without saying a word, we knew this was the fish we set out for. After 5 minutes of fighting the fish, I handed the rod to Kyle while I looked for a safe landing spot. After Kyle brought the fish closer to shore, he handed the rod off to Ricky and I hopped in the water to land it. Ricky kept a taunt line as I approached the monster. I dove down into the muddy water and bear hugged the beast with my whole body. Lifting her from the water I could sense her massive size. She was indeed the apex predator of this lake. After taking a few pictures, and drawing a crowd to the area, I safely released her with absolutely no harm done. She swam away to live another day. Maybe it was the luck of the rainbow, maybe it was the skill of the anglers, but there is no way we could have landed this fish if we all had not done our part. It left us wondering if she is the only one like her in that lake. And if there are more, how long have they been there? The only way to find out will be to catch them.