By Top Site Contributor Frank Statler
I live in a little town in the Midwest, called Burlington, IA along the mighty Mississippi River. So, I’ve been hearing stories of two hundred pound catfish lurking in the murky depths of Old Man River all my life.
I’ve met old timers who swear that while building the original bridge across the river from Burlington to Gulfport, IL on the far side of the river, that giant size catfish were seen. The bridge was called Macarthur Bridge; the first divers to scout the bottom were almost swallowed whole by a giant aquatic animal or so it has been said.
This story however, takes place in Alton, IL about 200 miles down the river from Burlington. It is almost directly across the water from St. Louis, MO.
Mr. Red Mudger of, Meadowbrook, IL, close to Alton, IL, begins a story of what would be the biggest catfish ever to be caught in the Mississippi River. On a cold evening near Grafton, IL, in the year of our lord 1909, Red was relaxing on his fishing boat waiting for a bite.
Abruptly, the long pole was torn from his hands. Red didn’t have a lot of money and that fishing pole was a big part of how he put food on his family’s dinner table. So, of course, he jumped in after it.
Red soon found himself face to face with the biggest catfish that he had ever seen. He quickly swam back to his boat (Sans fishing pole). He then hurriedly got back to town and told residents about his adventure on the river. Of course everyone in town was upset and horrified!
They soon made the decision that this monstrous fish must be caught before it hurt or killed someone. So they searched and searched for months but no such fish was ever caught and soon the story was forgotten except as a local legend.
Kato Mudger’s Efforts
However, Kato Mudger, the grandson of Red Mudger would not let the legend die. An avid fisherman himself he swore to prove his Grandfather right by catching the monster catfish that had eluded fishermen for so many years.
That day Kato was feeling very positive. He knew something good was going to happen to him that day. He knew that today was the day that he would catch that darn catfish and prove his Grandfather right.
He unpacked his gear and got ready for a good day doing what he loved best, fishing. He cast his line and sat back to relax a bit while waiting for a bite. The whole time he was thinking about the elusive fish and about redeeming his Grandfathers good name.
He spent the entire day fishing with no luck and decided to throw the pole in the brown water one last time and then call it a day. As he slowly reeled the line in, he felt a tug. The tug grew stronger and then, much to his surprise, Kato was pulled right into the cold water.
Kato instantly knew that he had that ol’ catfish on the line. He wasn’t worried though as he had his harness on and the hook was set.
There was no way he was letting this behemoth get away.
Kato fought and fought. An hour passed by and the fish had drug Kato all the way down the river to the lock and dam past Alton. By this time was spotted by the Coast Guard who jumped in to help.
Soon he was joined by a repertoire of anxious fishermen eager to help battle the fish. He fought with the swimming creature for many, many long hard hours. Finally, because it’s age and waning strength the catfish relented and was hauled ashore with the help of a crane.
Once it was on shore everyone was amazed at its huge size. The catfish eventually was weighed in at 736lb and it was determined to be a Mekong catfish, a fish not native to the region.
They estimated that the fish had been around for some 100 years and it was the largest catfish ever to be caught in the Mississippi River.
Frank M. Statler