Loch El Dorado monster swims!

Pity the poor five-pound bass not paying attention in El Dorado Lake. He could become lunch at any moment.

Biologist Leonard Jirak struggles to heft the big flathead catfish biologists caught and released last Friday at El Dorado Lake.

Any angler using equipment short of a boat winch for a reel and pool stick for a rod could get his tail whupped by a beast swimming within El Dorado’s waters.

Last Friday Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologists caught and released a huge flathead catfish at the lake.

“It’s the biggest thing I’ve seen in my career,” said Craig Johnson, the lake’s fisheries biologist. “The pictures don’t do the thing justice, really. Not only was it a long fish it was a really thick fish, too, with huge head.”

Johnson said biologist Sean Lynott said it was the second-biggest flathead he’d ever seen. The only other was the 123-pound state and world record caught at Kansas’ Elk City Lake in 1998.

Johnson and others estimated the fish at a conservative 80 pounds. That number could change quickly for the fish with a five-gallon face. Asked if he thought Moby Catfish could swallow a five pound carp Johnson chuckled and said, “Absolutely no problem.”

Johnson and others were electro-fishing the lake that day, sending jolts of electricity into the water to hopefully stun blue catfish. After reaching the surface the blue catfish were measured, weighed and released unharmed.

Craig Johnson, El Dorado Lake's fisheries biologist, with the huge flathead catfish. Conservative estimates put the fish at 80 pounds or more.

The shocking boat was in water about 30 feet deep over the old Walnut River channel when the big flathead floated to the surface.

Biologists put the huge fish into a large holding tank of water where it got plenty of oxygen and quickly recovered. After a few photos it was released back into the lake.

Flathead catfish are currently the largest fish in Kansas, living in most river systems and sizable lakes. Kansas fishermen regularly catch 60 to 70-pounders using hand-sized or bigger live fish for bait. Occasionally anglers fishing for walleye or bass will tie into a sizable flathead while fishing with lures.

Several years ago a flathead weighing about 60 pounds was added to an aquarium with other Kansas fish at the Cabela’s store in Kansas City. True to the species the fish spent most its time resting on the bottom.

Cabela’s staff said every few days, though, they’d count and there would be a two-pound crappie or nice-sized bass missing.

Because they mainly eat live fish and are so passive the meat of flatheads is mellow-tasting, tender and white.