Old Lead Pencil The Catfish of Ford County Lake
My grandfather Glenn Hoofnagle was one of the greatest fishermen I have ever known. He would catch fish when no one else did and Ford County Lake near Dodge City was no exception. It was a muddy sort of affair NE of Dodge and being surrounded by farmland tended to be muddy in color.
The lake was built in a small depression in the land and there were rocky outcroppings in this area and it must have been a small canyon looking spot before the lake was there. The dam is small but holds water back and has been enjoyed for many many years by people of the area.
There is an old 4-H camp there and the Boy Scouts use that location for activities.
The lake went through some dry spells much like all of Western Kansas and would get extremely low during these periods revealing the rocky overhangs that surround the lake shore. My grandfather had fished through these times and would memorize the rocky overhangs and then utilize that information when the lake refilled.
On these overhangs the constant wave action against the bluffs had eroded caves back under the edges and when the lake returned to normal levels, big catfish would live back in those areas.
My grandfather was one of the first people I ever heard of to use plastic worms and his technique was not like any I have ever seen since either. He would throw it out and slowly reel it in. Now slow to him was one reel crank maybe a minute. That would creep the worm along the bottom so slowly and it was impossible for me to do it as I was a kid and had no patience for that. I have used this technique since and it works unbelievably well.
So he often went out to the lake after work to ply his skills and at one particular spot would get a bite from a huge fish just as the worm would get to the edge of the overhanging cliff. A tough fight would ensue and the fish would go back under the overhanging rock and saw off the line. He used bait casting equipment with braided line so this was no small fish.
Each week my grandmother would write us about grandpa losing the fish once again and they began to call him “Old Lead Pencil” as they figured out that his whiskers were probably about the size of the old lead pencils that people used in the old days. These were solid lead and no wood around them and about as big around as a standard wooden pencil. So this was a big fish.
This weekly battle went on all summer and finally grandpa decided he had to try something different so the next time he got the fish to bite, he hauled back and pulled as hard as he could before the fish could get under the rocky cliff. The fish came up and eventually came to net and it was over 40 pounds.
The fish had been hooked so many times and broken off that his mouth was a total mass of fishing line and hooks and they were amazed that the fish could even eat in that condition. I would like to say that he released the fish but those were the days of using what you caught to supplement your diet and Old Lead Pencil was dipped in corn meal and provided excellent table fare for many meals to come.