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Fayetteville Angler Reels in Record Catfish from Cape Fear River

RALEIGH, N.C. (Sept. 26, 2005) – Is he a clairvoyant or just a darned good catfish angler?

Late last year, Brian Newberger predicted to family and friends that he would set a new state record for a flathead catfish by the end of 2005. Shortly after midnight on Sept. 17, Newberger’s prediction became a reality when the Fayetteville angler hauled in a 78-pound, 52-inch flathead from the Cape Fear River above Lock and Dam #3 in Cumberland County.

Brian Newberger displays his state record flathead catfish.

Newberger landed his record-breaking fish using live eel as bait and a Bass Pro Catmaxx rod and Penn Jigmaster reel spooled with 50-pound test Sufix line.

The monster flathead, which measured an impressive 39 inches in girth, was no stranger to Newberger, an avid catfish angler and a member of the Fayetteville-based Long Whiskers Catfish Club. He has spent countless nights catfishing the Cape Fear River, watching and waiting for the big fish to bite.

“He’d been down by these trees a long time and I’ve seen him feeding, but I’ve never been able to nail him,” Newberger said. “Finally, I was just at the right place at the right time.”

Newberger spent 45 minutes getting the fish in the boat and into his 125-gallon live well, and another seven hours tending to it, waiting for Riverside Sports Center in Fayetteville to open so he could have it weighed on certified scales.

“It was 1:00 in the morning — nothing was open,” Newberger said. “So, I stayed up with the fish all night, kept the pumps running and kept fresh water on it. It didn’t mind.”

Once his fish was weighed on certified scales and verified by N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Biologist Keith Ashley, Newberger released it unharmed back into the Cape Fear River shortly after 10 a.m., nearly 11 hours after it first hit the eel.

“I’ve seen a lot of very large flathead catfish in my day but nothing as big as this fish,” Ashley said. “To put it in perspective, we have collected flatheads up to 40 pounds from Sutton Lake in Wilmington and this fish was twice as large.”

Could the recently released fish be another state record for another day? Perhaps, although Newberger knows there’s a bigger one out there waiting to be caught — in July, he had an estimated 100-pounder up to his boat before it broke the line and got away.

“I got him all the way to the boat but he was shallow-hooked in the corner of the mouth,” Newberger recalled. “When I turned around to get the net, he dove back down and popped the hook out.”

While it was a disappointing end to an exhilarating fight, Newberger remains optimistic about future fishing opportunities in the Cape Fear, even going so far as to make another prediction.

“You’ll hear from me again,” he said. “I’m going after the world record now. It’s in the river.”

The current world record flathead is a 123-pounder caught from Elk City Reservoir in Kansas on May 14, 1998.

The previous North Carolina record weighed 69 pounds and was hauled from the Cape Fear River by Edward C. Davis in July 1994.

To qualify for a state record, anglers must have caught their fish on a hook and line, must have their fish weighed on a certified scale witnessed by one observer, have the fish positively identified by a qualified expert from the Wildlife Commission and submit an application with a full, side-view photo of the fish. For a list of all freshwater fish state records in North Carolina, visit the Freshwater Fishing Records page



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