Largest Fish Ever Caught in Arizona Is a True Freshwater Monster

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Photo: Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Several lakes around the world are thought to harbor monsters from Loch Ness to Lake Tahoe. Now you can add Arizona's Bartlett Lake to that list, as one angler recently proved.

Eddie Wilcoxson, 56, was sleeping on his pontoon boat at 2 a.m. when something truly gigantic began tugging on his 60-pound braided fishing line. After a 35-minute struggle, Wilcoxson finally caught sight of his Bartlett Lake monster: a behemoth flathead catfish.

"When it came close to the boat, I saw there was only one treble hook in the corner of his mouth," explained Wilcoxson, "so I backed off on the drag. If not, it would have ripped right out of his mouth."

Wilcoxson said he required a heavy-duty lip grabber to lift the fish aboard. The fish would later weigh in at 76.52 pounds, the heaviest fish ever caught in the state of Arizona of any species, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. It also measured at 53.5 inches in length and had a girth of 34.75-inches.

It was particularly apropos for Wilcoxson to be the one to reel it in, given that locals have taken to nicknaming him "Flathead Ed" for his dedication to fishing for these catfish.

"I sleep out on the water 3-4 days sometimes," said Ed. "Sometimes during Thanksgiving I’ll spend three weeks straight out there. Also, I fished 39 weekends last year."

The catch came at a great time for his business, the AZ Fishing 4 Flathead Cat fishing guide service. Wilcoxson had just received his guide license on April 1, though he has been fishing these waters his whole life. In fact, he had previously pulled in a 65 pounder, though obviously his latest catch is his largest ever.

The previous record in Arizona was held by Adrian Manzanedo of Florence, who in 2003 caught a 71-pound flathead in San Carlos Lake. Though these fish are impressive, the all-time record for a flathead stands at 123 pounds. That leviathan was reeled in by an angler in Kansas in 1998.

Bartlett Lake doesn't only harbor monster catfish. The lake also produced the largest carp ever caught in Arizona, a 37-pounder claimed in 1987. These massive carp are actually a prey species for the larger flathead.

So what does it take to reel in such a prize catch? Wilcoxson offered some advice that waxes prophetic across most walks of life: "Everybody’s got the same chance I do. You just have to get out and do it."