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Published: Friday, 7/10/2009

This catfish had eyes larger than its stomach

Nicole Jiminez shows off the 18 -inch, 4-pound pacu she took from Maumee Bay off Edgewater Drive in Point Place. Nicole Jiminez shows off the 18 -inch, 4-pound pacu she took from Maumee Bay off Edgewater Drive in Point Place.

This is a fish story to gag over sorry but imagine almost choking to death while trying to swallow a 20-inch smallmouth bass.

That is exactly what was happening to a 38-inch, 40-pound flathead catfish in the Maumee River above Waterville when Eric Renzhofer, of Whitehouse, and his wife, Chelle, happened along.

My wife and I were near the river across from Indian Island when she spotted a dog??? swimming in the water about 200 yards out, Renzhofer begins. The creature appeared to be in distress so Renzhofer and a buddy who was along, Mark Thompson, of Pemberville, hopped in a rowboat with rescue in mind.

We quickly rowed out and found a huge catfish struggling to submerge but couldn t, Renzhofer said. This was about 1,000 yards below Weirs Rapids.

We got him into the boat after five minutes and went ashore. The upriver rowing killed us. The cat smelled awful and I thought it was dying because it gave no fight at all.

We took him on shore and opened his mouth to see what the problem was. We noticed his stomach was full of air and huge. We found a tail protruding from his throat. A pair of Vise Grips was used to pull the fish out. It was a 20-inch smallmouth bass, partially decomposed the smell. It was lodged in his throat.

After removing the fish, the cat s stomach was smaller and he was relieved. I immediately put him back in the water and off he went. Renzhofer and Thompson did take time to measure the fish and photograph the victim-cat and culprit-bass, side by side in the sand.

A decomposing 20-inch bass was too much for the 38-inch, 40-pound catfish rescued from the Maumee River at Waterville. A decomposing 20-inch bass was too much for the 38-inch, 40-pound catfish rescued from the Maumee River at Waterville.

As for the big cat, he added, I can gladly say he is now back in the river, and I m sure he is rethinking the size of fish he will be swallowing. He bit off more than he could chew.

As for Renzhofer s buddy, Thompson, he was dead when we got back; he rowed like a crazy man.

Reflecting on the incident, it actually is amazing how big a prey a predator fish will swallow. Witness the annual Canada fishing-trip tales of guys finding a 20-pound northern pike that choked to death trying to swallow an 8- or 10-pounder.

It also raises an eyebrow about where some of the Maumee River s trophy smallmouth have gone.

Which certainly is not to lay all the blame on big flatheads; fishermen, of course, can take their share credit or shame for that.

On the other hand, the Renzhofers and Thompson surely know the fate of one 20-inch Fish Ohio-size smallie. It tried to choke a big flathead and lost.

Another unusual fish take surfaced this week, this time in Point Place, this one an escapee, or reject, from someone s pet aquarium.

It was a 4-pound, 18 -inch pacu, a vegetarian cousin of the ferocious meat-eating piranha of South American rivers. It was taken by Nicole Jimenez, who shore-fishes regularly on Maumee Bay off Edgewater Drive, according to Dave Ray at Edgewater Bait and Tackle. It took her 20 minutes to land it. Jimenez caught it on a nightcrawler rig.

Ray said the teeth in the fish s lower jaw almost looked human, but its uppers were sharp and pointed. That is perfect for feeding on fruits, nuts, and other vegetation in its native waters.

Pacu can reach 60 pounds in the wild and in home aquariums can quickly outgrow their welcome, which apparently was the case with the one taken by Jimenez. Someone appartently dumped it in the bay. Ray rightly wondered whether it would have lasted the winter.

By the way, it says here that dumping of unwanted pets from tropical fish to dogs and cats is about as irresponsible and unethical as it gets, and that is putting it as mildly as newspaper decorum allows.

On the western Lake Erie fishing front, Ray at Edgewater Bait said a terrific yellow perch bite is under way in Maumee Bay, with some anglers taking 10 and 12-inchers in 6-to-7-foot depths.

We re getting buried in perch to clean, Ray said. The closer in to shore you get, the bigger they are.

Elsewhere perch anglers have been catching, but doing a lot of sorting out of small fish, according to Rick Ferguson at Al Szuch Live Bait in Jerusalem Township.

But it appears that walleye are getting over their mayfly-full bellies and reluctance to eat nightcrawlers. Ferguson said walleye action has picked up between the Turning Buoy at the end of the Toledo Ship Channel and West Sister Island.

Rick Catley at Rickard s Bait on Catawba Island said even boats from the Port Clinton area are making the run to West Sister, with walleye action down east having slowed.

The best perching over Port Clinton way has been off Green and Rattlesnake islands and off the east side of Kelleys Island up to Kelleys Island Shoal.

Upcoming Fish fry, 4 p.m., Canvasback Gun Club, 3801 West Dunbar Rd., Monroe, Mich., part of club s ladies day weekend; also, trapshoot today, 6 p.m., Sporting Clays tomorrow 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with steak roast at 4 p.m. and trapshoot at 5 p.m.; Sunday, bowshoot, 30 3-D targets at 9 a.m., trapshoot, also 9 a.m., and chicken dinner at noon. Call the club 734-241-2875.

Contact Steve Pollick at:spollick@theblade.comor 419-724-6068.

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