Tim Spolarich struggled for 45 minutes to reel in a monster catfish on Lake Norman recently, but what he did next might really amaze and impress.
After taking a few pictures with his son and the humongous catch, he put the 48-inch-long catfish right back into the lake.
Somewhere on North Carolina's largest manmade lake, the monster continues to roam.
Spolarich, a 59-year-old retired school teacher from Oceana, West Virginia, is a cancer survivor who gets maintenance treatments once every eight weeks.
He was out enjoying the lake with his son, Brooks Spolarich, a 32-year-old Walgreens pharmacist who lives in Mooresville.
They were on Tim Spolarich's 17-foot fishing and ski boat in the McCrary Creek section of the lake when he felt an immense tug on his 8-pound test line.
Spolarich and his son held tight on the line for what seemed like an eternity before the fish's head finally emerged from the water, he said. The fish was so big that only its head fit into their net, Spolarich told the Observer on Tuesday night.
He said the fish unofficially tied the world record for length for a flathead catfish caught on an 8-pound test line, according to the International Game and Fishing Association.
He figures the fish also beat the world record for weight, which is 66 pounds.
But he feared the fish might die if he tried to get it weighed somewhere.
"I look at every day as a gift from God," he said. "And I feel that the fish feels the same way."
When he was young, he said, he dreamed of catching a world-record fish, "because I always loved fishing."
"But now that I realize that everyday is a blessing, the chance of a world-record fish is not that important," Spolarich said. "The important thing to me is the fish still roams the depths of Lake Norman and enjoying another day of life."