‘Right place, right time’ lands a state record

Lavon Nowling set a new state record when he landed a flathead catfish while fishing the Yellow River Aug. 26. (FWC)

HOLT, Fla., Sept. 1, 2020--A Santa Rosa County man landed a state record last week while fishing in the Yellow River.

Angler Lavon Nowling, using a rod and reel with live bait, caught a record-setting flathead catfish that weighed 69.9 pounds, measured 48.5 inches long and had a girth of 38.25 inches.

His catch was verified by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fisheries biologists.

“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.”

Nowling brought his catch to the FWC’s Blackwater Hatchery near Holt where biologists weighed it on a certified scale.

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.

Flathead catfish can grow up to 5 feet and weight as much as 123 pounds. The maximum recorded lifespan is 24 years.

“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.”

To properly certify a new freshwater Florida state record, an FWC employee must witness its weighing on a certified scale and a biologist must identify the species.

Anglers can check the current state records at BigCatchFlorida.com by clicking on “State Record” and should notify the nearest FWC regional office if they believe they have caught a record fish.

Contact information for FWC regional offices can be found at MyFWC.com/Contact by clicking on Contact Regional Offices.

Staff and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission news release

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