Williams, 83, catches second 35-pound catfish in four years

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lake St. John — If Dorothy Williams doesn’t answer her phone, it’s probably because she’s out fishing.

The 83-year-old outdoorswoman does, after all, put her line in the water nearly every day.

It’s easy to do when you live on a lake.

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What’s not so easy, as Williams found out recently, is reeling in and netting a 35-pound catfish by yourself.

“I caught him on a fly rod, and he broke the rod in three places,” Williams said. “I couldn’t get the net under him — he was too big — but there was a piece of iron near me, so I tied him off with my fly line the best I could, with his gills out of the water so he wouldn’t come alive on me.”

Williams then breathlessly ran up and down the street looking for any neighbors who might be at home to help her.

But they were all at work or away from home.

“I thought, well I’m just going to flag some man in a pickup down off the highway!” Williams said.

But then the fisherwoman realized a good friend was working nearby.

Sadie Eason was cleaning a house when she received a call from an out-of-breath Williams asking her to come help pull a giant fish out of the water.

“She came over and he was still on that line,” Williams said. “We finally got the net under him, and she couldn’t pick him up by herself, but we both got him up. And now he’s gone.

“I shared him with several people, and then put the rest in the freezer.”

The catfish, which came up to Williams’ waist when it was stood on its tail, went to good use feeding much of Williams’ family and the neighborhood, including Williams’ unlikely fishing partner.

“It sure was heavy,” Eason said.

What else is gone is Williams’ brand new fly rod, which she had just purchased the week before.

But Williams returned it to the store, and, seeing the way the rod had broken, the store replaced it for free.

Now Williams has a new rod and a new net — a neighbor gave her one that is shorter and much wider.

“I nearly cut my finger pulling him in, but if that net had been larger I would have had a little better luck getting him up by myself,” Williams said. “I bent the extension on the net slightly bringing him in as it was. This new one, I believe I could pick up an alligator with it, it’s so big.”

Williams has been fishing since she was a little girl with her father, and she used to enjoy hunting as well.

“It’s relaxing, and I just love Mother Nature,” she said. “I love the woods and the water, although I can’t swim a lick.

She typically fishes for white perch, and she said she’s told herself many times she’s done trying to catch catfish.

Yet still, she finds herself sinking her bait deeper into the water to hook the bottom-feeders.

It seems to be working — the big catch is the second 35-pounder she’s caught in four years, and she hooked a 20-pound catfish in January.

“My dad never taught me how to catch a catfish that size,” Williams said. “I know I had a little help from the Lord above. It’s just something in me that I seem to know how to do.”

Williams said she’s lucky to have a friend that was willing to help her net this latest catch — one that completely exhausted her.

She said she generally has no problem falling asleep at night, but that night, the 35-pound monster haunted her dreams.

“That night when I laid down, as tired as I was, I could not go to sleep. I relived that nightmare,” she said. “I was wore out for a couple days. I told one of my friends it was three days before I felt I could pick up a coffee cup.

“He whipped me. I just almost gave up on him, but he gave up about the same time I did.”