James Klauzer of Springfield can rest assured the accuracy of the fish story he’ll be telling for the rest of his life is backed up by credible witnesses and a certified scale.
According to a story that first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the flathead catfish Klauzer hauled out of Sangchris Lake southeast of Springfield around 3 a.m. Saturday weighed 81.4 pounds, easily topping a record that stood for two decades. The record had been held by Jody Harris of Carlyle, who caught a 78-pound flathead in 1995 in Carlyle Lake.
“They always thought that the next big one was going to come out of Sangchris. It’s a flathead factory,” said Trevor Miller, who works at Big Red’s Bait and Tackle in Springfield.
Miller said Klauzer humanely anchored the fish in a shallow part of the lake and waited until morning to call around in search of a scale and a way transport the fish. Miller said he got in touch with Pete Ochs, a fishing tournament director whose contacts in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources could help.
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Incidentally, Ochs also had an oxygen system in his fishing boat that he removed so Klauzer could use it to keep the fish happy in a plastic landscaping pond that everyone agreed was the best way to transport the fish. “(The fish) perked right up, its color changed,” Miller said.
Klauzer and his fish then met IDNR assistant fisheries director Dan Stephenson at Midstate Meats Company in Springfield. No one was going to eat the fish, that’s just where they knew a certified scale was. Miller said that under DNR rules a potential record-breaking fish has to be weighed on a certified scale in the presence of witnesses.
Witnesses documented the moment the scale showed Klauzer’s fish weighed 81.4 pounds, which was more than three pounds heavier than the previous state record fish. That previous record was set on Aug. 11, 1995, when Harris reeled in a 78-pounder out of Carlyle Lake. During a phone conversation Monday night, Harris said he wasn’t bitter.
“It has been a good story for 20 years. But I say congrats to the gentleman who caught this record fish,” Harris said. “Records are made to be broken.”
Harris said Klauzer will enjoy being a record holder.
“He’ll have people come up to him from all over,” Harris said. “You can’t imagine the amount of people that have talked to me about (my) flathead. He’ll enjoy it.”
Harris said he was interested in learning more details of Klauzer’s catch, saying “I enjoy listening to any kind of a good fish story.” But attempts to reach Klauzer for an interview Monday night were unsuccessful.
As for the catfish, it’s back in the “flathead factory.” After the witnesses attested to the fish’s status as the new state record flathead, Klauzer took it back to Sangchris Lake, where it’s free to get even bigger.