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'Once In A Lifetime Achievement' For Florida Angler With New State Record Flathead Catfish

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- What weighs nearly 70 pounds, measures more than 48 inches long and has set a new fishing record in the state of Florida? It's a record breaking flathead catfish.

This monster sized fish was caught by angler Lavon Nowling from Santa Rosa County. Nowling caught the flathead catfish on rod and reel using live bait in the Yellow River, a 92-mile-long river which winds through Florida's Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties in the Florida panhandle.

The flathead catfish set a new state record, according to FWC officials, who weighed it in at 69.9 pounds, 48.5 inches long, with a girth of 38.25 inches.

"I've caught some good ones before this fish, but none of them were more than 54 pounds," said Nowling. "I've been fishing since I was old enough to hold a pole and have been fishing on Yellow River as long as I can remember."

The last state record flathead catfish was caught in 2019 on the same river. That fish was caught by Marvin Griffin and weighed 69.3 pounds.

"I've been deep sea fishing to creek fishing and I never expected to catch a state record fish," said Nowling. "That day I was fishing for channel catfish and can't believe I caught a huge flathead. I was in the right place at the right time."

Flathead catfish are a nonnative fish found in many northwest Florida Panhandle river systems. Flatheads prefer long, slow flowing, moderately turbid rivers. Their solitary lifestyle makes them more difficult to catch than other catfish. Adult flathead catfish feed primarily on live fish, crawfish, freshwater clams and mussels.

"A state record catch is a once in a lifetime achievement for an angler," said Jon Fury, FWC's Director for the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. "We are pleased to award this state record to Mr. Nowling."


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