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fact or fiction you judge
 
Something's fishy in Hardin County

The debate in Tennessee over authenticity of the largest
catfish in the 'Catfish Capitol of the World' still rages on



Fact or fiction? You be the judge.
I'll never forget stumbling upon the wrinkled old photo that looked like something out of an old monster movie. The picture could have been titled, "The Catfish That Could Have Eaten Hardin County, Tennessee."

It was in the mid-1990s, and I was working on a story about the National Catfish Derby, an annual catfishing derby and festival held on the Tennessee River. The derby president was the first to show me the black and white photo.

"What do you think?" said the derby prez, Jay Barker.

I looked at the photo and then at Barker, who was grinning mischievously like the Cheshire cat.

"Interesting," I said. "Very interesting."

Whether the photo and the talk it has generated are fact or fishy fiction doesn't matter. The mystery is part of the tale itself — a tale that has more twists and turns than a hooked catfish.

And, true or not, Barker has long known the stories would get plenty of news play and help promote the event.

Many people don't believe the photo is real, and that is all right. But my mother told me it was, and she had no reason to lie. Faye Callens

Barker told me he first learned of the photo from Betty Coleman, a fellow resident of Savannah, Tenn. She found it while gathering old photos for the Hardin County Historical Society.

Since then, people have told Barker the photo was taken in the Hardin County community of Cerro Gordo in 1914.

Barker also has been told the man standing alongside the catfish was Warren McConnell and that a copy of the picture hung for many years in Pitts General Store.

The catfish has been estimated, by those who believe in the photo's authenticity, to weigh from 500 to 800 pounds.

I interviewed the late Faye Callens, also of Savannah, who said his mother, Rilla Callens, handed down the photo to him. He said his mother had worked as a bookkeeper at Pitts General Store, and she told him the photo was genuine; a man named Green Bailey caught the fish on a trotline.

Indeed Bailey's name is inscribed on the photo along with the date and place where the photo was taken, "Cerro Gordo 1914." Callens also said he visited Bailey's sister several years ago, and she told him her brother did catch the big fish.

"Many people don't believe the photo is real, and that is all right," Callens said. "But my mother told me it was, and she had no reason to lie."

There is the rub. To call a fisherman a liar is one thing. But to say so about his mother is enough to get filleted, and fast.

Some people say it's fake, but others firmly believe the catfish was actually caught. Jay Barker, president of Tennessee's National Catfish Derby

As I continued to investigate, though, I found many other stories attached to the old photo.

One was that the late Joe B. Pitts, proprietor of Pitts General Store, actually caught the fish. Another story claimed that the fish was caught during a dry summer after it became landlocked in shallow water (before dams regulated water levels on the Tennessee River).

Then, too, there is the fishy side of the story.

Barker said some Savannah residents have told him the photo was a fake. Many believe the catfish actually weighed 50-80 pounds and was placed on a child's wagon to be photographed as an optical illusion. To make the gag complete, a cardboard cutout of a man from a cigarette ad was placed on the wagon.

Perhaps this is the real truth behind this fish tale, because Barker also has a copy of another photo of the same man and fish taken from a different angle.

The man is posed exactly the same as he is in the other photo — one hand on his thigh and the other on his hip, as he stoops to admire the fish. The only difference is this photo was taken from the front of the wagon rather than from the side.

"Some people say it's fake, but others firmly believe the catfish was actually caught," Barker said.

What does Barker believe? He'd never admit the old photo is too fishy. After all, can you get too fishy in a place that bills itself as the "Catfish Capitol of the World"?

"Personally, I believe it is authentic, and it shows without a doubt why we're (Hardin County) the Catfish Capitol of the World," Barker proclaimed. (Perhaps it is no coincidence this promotions man has the last name "Barker".)

Besides, he pointed out that there definitely are some big catfish swimming in the Hardin County waters of the Tennessee River, especially below Pickwick Dam.

"Probably are some catfish out there that are this big, but anglers just aren't rigged with tackle strong enough to land them," he said.

What would happen if a cat as big as the one depicted in the old photo was caught during the county's annual National Catfish Derby?

"I'd try to find a swimming pool big enough to put it in," Barker laughed. "A fish that big would be a tourist attraction all by itself."

At one time the famed photo had been made into a postcard used to promote the National Catfish Derby.

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
 
Hey daymere,

Thank you very much for the really neat photo. As sophisticated as the photo analyists (I'm a UFO.. believer nut) and believe in the 'grassy knoll' to boot) are these days, the photo could be micro-scrutinized to tell what's going on with the image.

Now days... those guys are GOOD! I'm not sure about the 800lb business but I hope the size of the guys is correct.

Might be a cool Discovery, Nat'l Geo, history channel program ('the most' series), etc.

JapanRon

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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
i guess it would be possible i just want to know how you would land a flathead that big don't think they had all the high tech fishing gear back then. you suppose it was landed on a cane pole.
www.kansasoutlaws.com

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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
Defintely fiction! oh yeah!

I can make a picture like that!



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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
hmmm.....

fact or fiction? my guess is dinner!





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Fish in Ohio? check out www.OHFishing.com

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Re: [FisherMOM] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
I sure wouldn't want to be in that perdicament.


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Re: [JapanRon] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
this was a actual clipping out of a news paper and it was suppose to have been caught on a trotline.

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [fyshrmn] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
i used to have a pic of my grandfather and grandmother catching a 6 ft gar out of a nearby lake,and it was caught on cane pole .but this one was taken on trotline they say.

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [tubeN2] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
me either looks like the bait has changed and i dont like the idea of hangin on a hook

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
That particular picture came on to the site back in Sept. There was some controversy about it back then as well.


Bass are toys. Gills and Trout are food.
There is a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an Idiot
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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
CoolThis story and picture is available on ESPN News. Just type "The Catfish That Could Have Eaten Hardin County, Tennessee." in Google and wala! From that site you can e-mail the story to a friend.





Dryrod
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Re: [tubeN2] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
must have missed that one well it is very interesting anyway.

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [Dryrod] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
i live not to far from there

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
CoolOther than the monster in the story - what is the size for the state record? Inquiring fishermen must know!Tongue




Dryrod
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Re: [Dryrod] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
Blue Catfish 112 lbs. 1998 Cumberland River Flathead Catfish 85 lbs. 15 ozs. 1993 Hiwassee River Channel Catfish 41 lbs. 1982

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
Sounds like some big kittys. I am still waiting to get something over 50 lbs myself.


Bass are toys. Gills and Trout are food.
There is a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an Idiot
Fast, Free Registration Tell them TubeN2 sent ya
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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
I think the Paper cut-out is probably right. The guy looks flat and his color doesn't match the rest of the picture and it appears that the sun is coming in from behind him and yet there is no shadow on his face.

FM

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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
Here is what info I found on this....Smile

"How big catfish commonly found in North American waters can actually get is widely disputed. Supposedly, the record is a 123 lb. flathead catfish caught in Kansas. Folks, however, swear cats have been known to weigh twice as much (and often that they almost landed one or were chased by one). A widely-circulated 1914 Tennessee photo has any number convinced there was at least one 500 lb. monstrosity. The picture shows the fish with its tail hanging off what appears to be a logging wagon, with a man viewing the behemoth from a standing position at the rear of the wagon. Very believable evidence, that, even if the original has long been surrendered to the mists of time and all that now survives are copies of this controversial snapshot.

A member of the photographer's family dismisses the matter as a prank. "My daddy had a little wagon that looked like a log wagon," said Joe Brownlow Pitts of Savannah, Tennessee. "He put the fish — which weighed, I recall, about 85 lbs. — on it. Then, my uncle Frank, who was good at photography, cut out a cardboard man that was being used in a clothing advertisement and stuck it on the wagon, along with the fish. He took the picture." Explanation to the contrary, many still prefer to accept the evidence their eyes perceive over what they hear. "

http://www.snopes.com/...kers/catfish.htm#add

Smile



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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
OK BUD, WHAT IS A TROTLINE? NEVER HEARD OF IT, IS THAT BY HAND?? WELL WITH ALL THE STUFF THEY KEEP FINDIN OVER THE YEARS THAT ARE SUPPOSE TO BE EXTINCT, AND WAY DOWN IN THE OCEANS THEY KEEP FINDIN THE DEEPER THEY GO, I REALLY DONT KNOW WHY THIS COULDNT BE TRUE. THERERS SOME WEIRD STUFF WAY DOWN THERE. I,D HATE TO SEE WAHT THOSE GUYS SAW IN THIS CONNECTICUT RIVER WHEN THEY WERE DIVIN AND SAID THEY,D NEVER DIVE AGAIN. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.! NO WAY!. HAHA I LIKE FISHIN FER FISH THAT I,M NOT GONNA BE BAIT THANK YOU! HAHAHA SEE I,D DO REAL GOOD ON THE OCEAN. HAHAHAHA LATER AND JACK LIKES IT. NOT ME!!!!!!!!!!! HAHASmileWinkHE DOES THAT SAILIN THING, I,D DO REAL GOOD SEEIN A SHARK AFTER HIM AS HE,S SAILIN ALONG AND I,M WATCHIN. GOOD THING I,M A GOOD SHOT, ! HAHAHAHA

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Re: [patches] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
a trotline is a long line with 25 hooks set out and tied off to check on later works relly well for cats. they said the same about a few dams around here the divers wouldnt go back down something scared them last i heard they say one that could swallow a voltswagon but i didnt see it so its just here say .

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
CoolHey daymere,

I thought a trot line was something one found at the race track.Wink




Dryrod
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Re: [daymere] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
25?? wow! how many ya catch on that?? hahahaha ya need a boat with a winch on it to pull em in. hahahaha well if the volkswagon has it,s head light on, it,s easier fer him to see anyways. ahhaha tried haha mist be gittin tired. haha no i wouldnt be doin no divin. haha ya never know! haha i aint takin that chance. ahah guess i had too many scares round water to be takin chances. haha later mareSmileSmile

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Re: [Dryrod] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
hahaha i thought so too. with all the ponies i had. haha maybe they could pull em out. haha Smile

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Re: [patches] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
i have caught 25 cats on it several times and do some jug fishing too while i am out on the lake to keep me busy when the bite slows down.

.............DAYMERE ,ReelFoot lake TENNESSE ,Buy, Sell, trade, Donate Tackle,And Fishing Tackle & Tips
BFT MODERATOR

ITS NOT THE FISH IN THE FIGHT BUT THE FIGHT IN THE FISH THAT MATTERS.ALWAYS GO LIGHT FOR THE BEST FIGHT.


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Re: [patches] fact or fiction you judge In reply to
TongueHey there patches,

Who ever heard of Jack Lighting for fish? Deer yes! Shrimp yes! Oh well all I know is what I read in the funny papers.




Dryrod
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