The one that got away…

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Submitted by Keith Lee - Keith Lee weighing his 13 pound 8 ounce Gafftopsail catfish. The scale, unfortunately, is facing the wrong direction, Lee said

Submitted by Keith Lee – Keith Lee weighing his 13 pound 8 ounce Gafftopsail catfish. The scale, unfortunately, is facing the wrong direction, Lee said

Track coach Keith Lee releases a ‘world record’

Keith Lee just thought he was turning loose a nice sized catfish. As hard as it seems to believe, he might have let a world record slip right through his fingers.

Lee was fishing on his brother’s dock in Melbourne, Fla., at the Indian River inlet this spring when he landed what apparently was a 13 pound 8 ounce Gafftopsail Catfish.

“I’ve caught catfish around here that would make that guy look tiny,” Lee said, “so I didn’t think anything of it.”

As it turns out, the Gafftopsail, a catfish that frequents tidal basins and river inlets, is not like the catfish around here at all.

“It has poisonous barbs on its side,” said Lee, “and a sail fin that sticks way up out of the water.” It also runs much smaller.

The state record for Florida is 8 pounds 14 ounces, and the world record is 10 pounds, but the average specimens are only 1-2 pounds.

Take that in for a second. If Lee caught and released what he thinks he did, he beat the world record by more than 3 and 1/2 pounds.

“He took me 15 minutes to bring him in,” Lee noted. “I was the only one fishing at the time and didn’t have a net, so I had to pull him in to the shore because I didn’t want to break the fishing line.”

And, because he assumed it was just a big fish and nothing special, he posed for a few photos with his prize and let him go on his way.

“I didn’t even bother contacting the authorities because there are a lot of rules with submitting,” he said. “I would have to have the fish alive and on a certain amount of the line and take it to an official weighing station.”

Lee weighed his catch on a Cabella’s digital scale, and even has a photo of the fish during the process, but as luck would have it the display is facing the wrong side of the shot.

The bait used to land the Gafftopsail was a mullet, a small minnow type of fish, with a weight and a bobber.

“I had to use the weight because seagulls kept swooping down and stealing the bait,” he said.

“The next night I caught 2 more,” he said. “One was 7.5 pounds and the other was 5.5 pounds. We were trying to catch the big one again after we realized what he was.”

When asked what he would have done if he knew that he had just reeled in a world record catch, Lee answered like the true sportsman that he is.,

“I’d have probably tried to keep him alive and got him weighed and then let him go.”

Lee is no stranger to the water and enjoys every aspect of a day spent fishing.

 The Gafftopsail Catfish

The Gafftopsail Catfish

“I enjoy the tranquility of fishing when I’m here in Hampshire County. If the fish aren’t biting you are still in nature and it’s really peaceful and calming.

“Then it can become so exciting when you land one,” he added.

Lee normally fishes for Smallmouth bass, Carp and Catfish when he goes out locally. It is a pastime he looks forward to keeping up a long time.

“My wife asked me what I am going to do when I retire.” “I can’t fish every day”, she said. “I said I probably can.”

As for missing out on his world record, Lee is not too sore about it. He does, however, wonder what would have happened if the situation panned out more positively.

“Everybody wants to try and be the best at something. I am very competitive,” he said.

“All the kids at school said Iif I would have proved it I would have gotten all of these endorsements and been able to retire a little early.

“That would have been nice.”

Perhaps Lee will catch up with his lost record again one day.

“My brother owns the dock I caught him on. I’ll be back there again soon.”

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