Gone Fishing: A Fisherman Notices Something Odd Inside A Catfish’s Mouth

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By: Lauren Wurth | Published: Jan 24, 2023

It’s an impressive feat for any fisherman to successfully capture a catfish. This particular catfish, though, was unlike any other, and this fisherman would find that out–and much more.

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And so, what was supposed to be the achievement of a lifetime, turned out to also be something quite peculiar and menacing.

Catch of a Lifetime

With a loud thud, the enormous animal dropped onto the deck. The little boat swayed and rocked under its weight. 

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For this fisherman, it was definitely the largest catch of his life. As he took in the humongous catfish, he wholeheartedly believed the catch was worth the risk. He enjoyed a quick moment of pride before noticing something horrific inside the fish’s mouth. Suddenly, everything made sense–this was no ordinary catfish.

Who Is Eugene Cronley?

Eugene Cronley–the main man in this story–is an aficionado fisherman hailing from Brandon, Mississippi. Fishing had always played a part in his life, but after retirement, he got into it more by devoting himself to catching a specific type of fish. 

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Yes, he thoroughly enjoyed catching the types of fish he himself could cook and sometimes sell to people or restaurants in the area—still, something about hooking a catfish was even more appealing to him.

Why Catch a Catfish?

Catfish aren’t the money-makers of the fishing world. When they are younger and smaller, they cost around three dollars per pound. 

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As catfish grow, a lot of things happen. They lose their delicious flavor, while their flesh becomes super fatty. They also tend to absorb chemicals from their natural habitat that are unsafe for people to eat. But even so, catfish have grown to present a unique obstacle–making them a goal to catch for many recreational fishermen.

The Catfish Challenge

Catfish are widely regarded as one of the most challenging fish to capture. Enormous, heavy, fierce, and prone to aggression when threatened–all contribute to the dangers of trying to catch one.

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However, that doesn’t scare pro-fishermen; it only excites them. Many make it their aim to catch the largest, heaviest, and meanest catfish they can. It often becomes a life-long challenge for them and an opportunity to showcase their capabilities.

 

Toxic Poison

Catfish are a peculiar and sometimes dangerous breed of fish. With prickly spines and stingers set on their fins, both on top and on the underside of their bodies, it’s no wonder that one has to be careful when dealing with catfish. 

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Their spines and stingers are sometimes charged with a certain poison. Fishermen commonly get stung by them–causing irritating side effects like rashes, infections, and long-lasting skin damage. But that’s not all.

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Deadly and Dangerous

Trying to dominate this ferocious beast can be a danger for those who try it. Aside from its already terrifying poison, the catfish has other traits that make it a deadly fish to try and catch.

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If the catfish is too big, too strong, or too heavy, it can drag an unlucky fisherman into the waters. Some who attempt to catch one come out badly injured, while other poor souls even become casualties of their catch.

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Aggressive in and Out of the Water

Setting out to catch a catfish is not a one-person job. With no one to help in case of an enormous catch, the fisherman is at considerable risk of getting dragged down. Sometimes, there is even a possibility of drowning. 

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Eugene Cronley was a quiet man who liked and chose to pursue his catfishing hobby alone. But on that fateful day, he would regret being alone. 

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Eugene Faced a Deadly Beast

Eugene never had a problem catching catfish. He knew the waters of the Mississippi like the back of his hand. He could go around it blindfolded and still know exactly where he was. And even though there were wild alligators and huge turtles around, he was never afraid.

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When facing the humongous catfish that would go on to become the catch of his life, he would realize he had made a big mistake–he should never have gone into the waters alone.

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The Waiting Game

Eugene spent a long time waiting for the catfish that would test his fishing abilities. He had already been calmly cruising around the Mississippi river in his little boat for two hours and counting.

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So far, he had caught a trout–a great catch. Still, it wasn’t the catch that he wanted. However, there are times when you need to be careful what you wish for–and this was one of those times.

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Finally Caught!

After hours of waiting, he felt that a large fish had taken the bait. His entire boat shook. With the way the boat was moving, it looked to be a strong and heavy fish.

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Tensing his muscles, Eugene pulled the rod with all his might–anything to get the beast out of the water. It took him almost an hour, but he finally got the fish onto his boat. But then, he saw something strange.

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Look in the Mouth

Besides Eugene’s hook, there was something else inside the catfish’s mouth, though he could not identify what it was since the fish itself was still alive, keeping its mouth half-closed.

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With great care, Eugene attempted to open the catfish’s mouth. He grabbed its head to avoid getting bitten and pried it open. When he saw what was inside the catfish’s mouth, he was utterly baffled.

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A Foot and…Nothing Else

Surprisingly, the catfish had an entire alligator foot in its mouth–with the claws and everything, too! The foot’s wound looked fresh, and Eugene concluded it had recently been ripped off.

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Maybe the catfish found it in the river and mistook it for a snack? Probably. However, Eugene couldn’t shake his suspicion that the catfish was the culprit. Could it be possible? A catfish overpowering an alligator, biting off its entire foot?

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An Abnormality

It didn’t seem very likely that a catfish could do that, but who knows? Eugene had never seen such a big, strong catfish in his life. He had almost been dragged down into the water by it himself. 

 

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The catfish certainly didn’t look like anything you’d find in the rivers of Mississippi; it looked more like something from a sci-fi movie. And when he brought it to the attention of the local authorities, he was in for another huge surprise.

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What a Record

The catfish weighed almost 60 kilograms, or 131 pounds, to be exact. It reached a whopping 16.6 inches in length and 41 inches in circumference, or 1.4 and 1.04 meters, respectively. All these measurements proved that Eugene had set the world record for catching the biggest catfish ever!

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Eugene felt ecstatic. As a long-time fisherman, it would be his life’s most outstanding fishing achievement–and it certainly didn’t come easy.

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Proud

Following his fantastic catch was an interview with the media. Cronley explained, “We had to untie the boat and float down the river.”

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“I couldn’t move him. I’d pull on him and take in a foot of line; then he’d pull and take ten feet.” He continued, “It is truly a fish of a lifetime.” Eugene deserved to be proud, but something bothered him–was the catfish strong enough to rip off an alligator’s foot?

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Flaunting His Catch

Eugene wasn’t finished showing off just yet. After going back to the dock, other fishermen noticed his huge haul. Everyone praised him for the catch. He placed the catfish in a cooler box before loading it onto his truck.

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As he drove home, he listened to the radio like any other day. However, he didn’t know just how much attention he drew to himself, especially when an uninvited guest would show up at his home the next day.

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Celebrating the Catch

After getting home with his prized catch, Eugene Cronley was just beginning his celebrations. After all, it wasn’t every day that he set a new world record. He gutted the fish carefully and put it in his refrigerator. He was eager to continue celebrating by cooking it the next day.

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That night, he dreamed of enjoying the catfish for dinner. He lay peacefully, not knowing the surprise he would receive at his front door in the morning.

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A Visitor in the Morning

Eugene started the next day like he usually would. A cup of coffee and some quiet time seemed perfect. But not even ten minutes later, someone knocked on his door.

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At ten in the morning, he wasn’t sure who would be visiting him. He got up from his chair and walked to the door to open it. And when he did, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

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Poaching?

Eugene opened his front door to a man in uniform, just standing there. He wasn’t a cop, but something about him shouted authority. With a confused expression, Eugene asked, “Can I help you?”

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The man at the door spoke. “Good morning, Sir.” He explained he was there to look into a potential poaching case that sources claimed may have happened yesterday afternoon. Now, Eugene was even more confused. Poaching? Yesterday afternoon? Where was all this going?

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The Mississippi Wildlife Federation

He informed Eugene he was a representative of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, whose job is to protect and conserve nature against any threat–including poaching. “You were out fishing yesterday, weren’t you?” he asked. 

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All Eugene could do was nod. Did this have something to do with the catfish? Was it an uncommon species? Is that why it was so big? Am I in trouble? His mind was reeling. He had no idea what the man was about to say.

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An Incident in the River

“There was a possible incident yesterday on the waters of the Mississippi.” The man had talked to some fishermen, and they had a lot to say about Eugene bragging about his impressive catch. “We just wanna make sure you didn’t do anything illegal,” the man remarked.

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He started to ask Eugene more intrusive questions about the day before. Why was he so interested, though? And what did it mean for Eugene and his catch?

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Regretting the Catch

Eugene’s heart rate was starting to go up. He knew this was no random visit, and these were not random questions. Eugene had the impression that the man was persuading him to admit to something he hadn’t done.

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And it worried him greatly. Eugene would never do something wrong or illegal on purpose. He started to regret ever seeing and catching the humongous catfish from the day before.

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Hank Arlington

After that worrying line of questioning, the man introduced himself–Hank Arlington. Closely working with the Mississippi Wildlife Foundation, he was passionate about any and all animals. He never wished harm to any of the wildlife in the area because he cared for them so much.

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When he heard about the possibility of a poaching incident, he sought to pursue an investigation into it relentlessly–this could mean trouble for Eugene.

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Is It the Catfish?

Eugene’s mind was now racing with endless thoughts. As Arlington explained what was happening, Eugene just stood there. He reflected on his actions the day before–from going out onto the river to going home with his world-record catch.

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Because, surely, the man must have been talking about the catfish. Right? No other animal was involved unless you counted the trout he caught earlier. However, he had no idea what the man’s true intentions were. 

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Coming Clean

Arlington continued, “Sir, what were you doing yesterday when you went out to the lake? Did you catch anything?”

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Eugene felt like he couldn’t speak. This was it–he had to think fast to get out of this problem. But he knew he had to be honest. Eugene then decided it would be best for everyone to tell Arlington everything. Maybe then, he would get a lighter sentence.

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This Is the Truth

Eugene paused for a moment before spilling everything. He shared how much he enjoyed going out on the water as a fisherman, always trying to find the best catch.

 

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Yet, he made it clear that he would never attempt to poach any wildlife. And that, as far as he knew, catfish weren’t included on any endangered or conservation list, so it was perfectly legal to capture them. That’s when Arlington confusedly raised his eyebrows.

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How Eugene Did It

With an indecipherable look on his face, Arlington asked, “What catfish?”

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Eugene explained that he had made a huge catch that he was proud of on the previous day. He went over everything–how he caught it, its weight, size, and length, and anything else he remembered. But while Eugene was explaining, he failed to recall one tiny detail. It was this detail that would make or break it for him.

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It’s… Not the Catfish?

The catfish didn’t even seem to interest Arlington remotely. He explained that the potential poaching situation he was looking into had nothing to do with any catfish.

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Instead, it was an alligator. Right then and there, Eugene should have made the connection. But, instead, he did not put it together that his catfish had played a part in the poaching. Once Arlington found out, things could take a turn for the worse.

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The Foot Strikes Again

Arlington explained further that an alligator was found in the lake that appeared to have had his foot chopped off. The alligator was safe now in their custody, but he wanted to make sure that the harm done to him wasn’t intentional.

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It all clicked for Eugene. He completely forgot the strangest detail about the catfish, the detail he discovered  when he pried the fish’s mouth open. He quickly explained to Arlington that the catfish was the reason for the missing alligator foot.

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The Truth Sets Him Free

Arlington listened closely to Eugene’s explanation. Then, with a nod that showed his satisfaction with the description, he thanked Eugene for his complete honesty. After that, he made his way to his car and drove off.

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Eugene let out a sigh of relief, feeling all the worry and anxiety melt away. Now that he was absolutely sure he had done nothing wrong, he could look forward to enjoying his record-breaking catfish.

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