Two weeks ago, a brother-sister duo each reeled in an enormous 50-pound flathead catfish while night-fishing in Lake Conway just east of Mayflower, Arkansas. Logan and Haylee Applegate are no strangers to catching huge catfish, but catching two in one night is a different story.
According to a report from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Logan explained their process for catching large catfish. Logan shared that he and his sister always start their trips by fishing for baitfish – preferably bream. Then, they use the smaller bream as bait on large catfish hooks.
It takes large equipment to reel in the massive catfish in Lake Conway. So, the siblings use hooks the size of an adult hand. Then, they attach the hooks to a 1/4-inch rope that they suspend from a custom-made jug used as a buoy. The floating jug’s rope only runs about four-feet deep into the lake as they wait for the catfish to take the bait.
At times, the large catfish will pull the jug underwater after it’s hooked. Occasionally the jugs go missing, but typically they pop up and the siblings pull them in slowly. If they pull them in too fast, the hook can straighten out and the fish will get away. Instead, they wait for the fish to pull against the buoy and tire itself out.
“You might set a few and then one turns up missing,” Logan explained to the AGFC. “It may not have been someone stealing your noodle. But a big catfish that can take it down and keep it there until it breaks it off in a stump.”
Fishing for Catfish Runs in the Family for the Applegates
The Applegate siblings and their father, Roger, are well-known in the area by the local fishing community. Logan earned the title of 2019 Junior Division Champion of Champions, plus his high school team placed first in regional level competitions. Roger Applegate is an avid fisherman himself who coaches the Jacksonville team. However, it was Haylee who kickstarted the idea for a fishing team while still attending high school.
“When she was a sophomore in high school, Haylee asked if she could join Jacksonville’s high school fishing program. And then asked if she could join the trap team,” Roger said, according to the AGFC report. “I was floored. We didn’t have any programs like that when I was growing up or in other places we’d been.”
Today, Haylee’s interest in the outdoors and previous work with the AGFC might be responsible for her current career. She works in Mayflower, not far from her family’s favorite fishing grounds, for the AGFC Enforcement Division’s radio room. Needless to say, fishing is in the Applegate family’s blood.
While speaking to the agency, Roger also explained that the lake has even bigger catfish in its waters than the two 50-pounders his kids caught. Applegate even shared that he thinks he once caught a record-breaking fish in the past. Yet the hook straightened as he reeled it in near his boat and as the catfish swam away. The record for a catfish caught on an unrestricted tackle in Arkansas is 85 pounds, 6 ounces.