This is one of the funniest (true ) stories that I have heard in a long time.
"I can always get another wife, but I may never get another fish like this."
Weldon Fortner knew he'd made a mistake when he said it, but, at the time, he was too busy to consider the ramifcations of the joke - like justifiable homicide.
But had it not happened, or, rather, had Fortner just kept his mouth shut, the story about his monster catfish would be just that.
Another story about another big fish.
It would have been an interesting story, too, since the catfish was 53 1/2 inches long, 23 inches around and weighed 85 pounds. It will probably be a world record for 40-pound line.
But it's the story behind the story that makes this one so much better. ...
Fortner, 63, and his wife of 26 years, Lisa, 53, were fishing for catfish in the Mississippi River near Vicksburg last Sunday. At 9:55 a.m., they got a bite.
"I looked over and saw the tip of my rod starting to bend slowly and it just kept bending," Weldon Fortner said. "I looked at Lisa and told her it looked like I had snagged a log and I grabbed the pole.
"Well, when I did that, I felt that it was a fish. And a big fish."
Fortner set the hook and the big fish shook its head but stuck to the bottom. Fortner couldn't budge it.
"Then after a few minutes, she decided to run for deep water and when she made that decision, she was gone," Fortner said.
That put Fortner in a bind. Using just a 7-foot medium action Shakespeare Ugly Stick Rod and an Ambassadeur 5500C reel, he didn't have the tackle to horse the fish or even slow its advance. With 40 pound line, he might have had 120 or 125 yards of line on the reel, most of which had already been taken by the fish.
He had no choice but to chase the fish to get line back, but the boat was tied to a piling and they were in strong current.
"I hollered to Lisa to get us loose," Fortner said.
His wife jumped up and entered the fray.
"I pulled on the rope and got us up to the piling, and all the time he was yelling to hurry," Lisa Fortner said. "I grabbed the piling and tried to get the rope ... and that's when it happened.
"He had had just told me not to let the boat run out from under me and it did. The current took the boat, I grabbed the piling and there I went."
Weldon Fortner said he heard something, turned and ...
"Lisa wasn't there," he said.
"Heck no, I wasn' there, Iwas dangling from that piling," she said. "I looked and there was water rushing under my feet."
The Fortners were in a sticky situation ... she more than he, for sure.
She was hanging on for dear life.
He was only holding on to a rod and reel attached to the biggest catfish he'd ever felt.
"I looked up at her and I looked at the rod and this is what I said: 'I can always get another wife, but I may never get another fish like this,' " Fortner said. "That probably wasn't the smartest thing I've ever said."
No it wasn't, said Lisa.
"I figured he was kidding," she said. "At least at first, but then I thought about how much that fish meant to him. I had a good hold to the ladder on the piling. I climbed up and was OK so I told him to go catch his (#%$*) fish and then come back and get me."
Weldon Fortner didn't say how much consideration he gave that proposition. He said he looked at the reel and had precious little line left, but he did the only thing he could.
"I put the rod in a rod holder, cranked the motor and went and got Lisa," he said. "Then we went and got the fish."
Lisa Fortner said she was OK with things until she was safely back in the boat.
"That's when I looked at the depthfinder and saw it said 45 feet and then I thought about what he had said," she said Thursday, howling in laughter.
Tags: Catfish, Fishing, Ugly Stick Rod, Ambassadeur Reel, Mississippi River, Vicksburg