Teen uses noodling style to catch huge flathead catfish at Clarks Hill Lake

Appling resident Holden Ashley, 17, "noodled in" this 70.3-pound Clarks Hill flathead catfish on July 14.

If you’ve ever wondered how big a fish can grow at Clarks Hill Lake, Holden Ashley might be qualified to answer that question.


“Whenever we go out, we usually come back with some 30 or 40-pounders,” he said. “And I caught a 63 pounder one time jug fishing.”

Ashley, who lives in Appling, is a diehard fan of one of the lake’s heftiest fish: the flathead catfish.

He fishes by line, with jugs – and most enjoyably, by noodling.

That’s the generic term for diving into the water with a PVC pipe rigged with a treble hook, heavy twine and a ball of foam rubber that can be shoved into a big flathead’s lair to entice a bite.

“I can hold my breath for a minute and a half,” he said. “So I can swim down pretty deep.”

That’s what he was doing July 14 when he and fishing partner Tony Postell got into a wrestling match with the biggest fish he’s ever seen at the lake.

He was diving down to explore crevices and openings along rocky ledges, boat ramps and overhangs – when his foam-baited, 11-foot PVC tube began to quiver and then jerked violently.

With Postell helping from above, they wrestled in the giant flathead for a better look. It was huge.

Later, the fish was weighed on a certified electric scale. “It came out at 70.3 pounds,” Ashley said. “And that was a couple hours after we caught it.”

Although the flathead was apparently larger than the current lake record - a 64-pound, 3.5-ounce fish landed in 2010 by Jake Manley - it would not qualify for such a ranking because it was “noodled,” and not landed via conventional rod and reel.

Flatheads are one of the largest freshwater fish species in Georgia, where the reigning state record (via rod and reel) is a tie among two 83-pounders landed in 2006 and 2010 in the Altamaha River, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Not being able to submit his fish for the record book doesn’t bother Ashley, who enjoys any fishing method but finds noodling to be the most fun. Georgia’s noodling season runs from March 1 to July 15.

“I’ve been doing it since I was 15 and have caught a lot of big ones,” he said.

Now, he is just 17 – so there is plenty of time to find even larger ones.


FLY FISHERS MEETING: The CSRA Fly Fishers group will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday at the River Island community’s clubhouse in Evans.

Activities include making plans for fall fishing trips and practice casting at the nearby docks.

Visitors are welcome. Visit www.csraflyfishers.org for more details.


BUSSEY DEER HUNTS: The Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled its 2015 primitive weapons deer hunts at its 2,545-acre Bussey Point management area in Lincoln County.

Archery only hunt dates will be Sept. 18-19 and Oct. 9. Muzzleloader hunts will be held Oct. 10 and Nov. 13-14.

The bag limit is two does and one quality buck each day of each hunt. Quality bucks must have four points or better on at least one side, or a 15-inch or greater outside spread.

Muzzleloader hunts are limited to 100 hunters per day on a first-come, first-served basis. Archery hunters are invited to participate in all scheduled hunts.

For more details, visit the Thurmond Lake web page or contact Ken Boyd at the Thurmond Office toll free at 1-800-533-3478, ext. 1159, or at (864) 333-1159.