Boat Record Blue Catfish - 78 lbs!

February 3, 2011.  Sometimes when you think you know something about fishing, the opposite happens and you realize how incredible this sport can be, and unpredictable.  That happened yesterday on the James River ... again.

I had a trip booked with my good friend and fellow guide, Tony Horsley.  He brought two of his hunting buddies on the trip, both from out of town, but familiar with fishing.  So we are out on the river and we catch a few decent catfish in the 24 to 35 pound range.  We caught one fish about six or seven pounds which I filleted.  We were going to fry it up for lunch.  Along the way we ate smoked duck breast, marinated duck, and venison sausage with crackers.  Tony treated us right with these wonderful game treats.

I set up on a spot I like to fish, cast out the lines and start the process of cooking lunch.  Homemade tartar sauce and fresh fried catfish.  I cooked up the meal and as soon as it was cooked, it was eaten.  We found a good combo for saucing up the catch ... you dipped the fried catfish strip into a little buffalo wing sauce, then into homemade tartar.  Mmmmmmm, mmmmmm good.

About 45 minutes or so at the spot we were fishing, we had only caught one fish, a 21-pound blue cat.  Lunch was wrapped up, we were ready to go and decided to give it an extra five minutes or so.  We are talking on the boat about the pair of eagles that are flying around us, and we are looking at their nest when the next thing I know, Dana has a pole in his hand.  It's the smaller of the eight rods I fish with, and it has a good reel, a Shimano Calcutta 400 spooled with 30 pound monofilament.  Here's where it get's 'fishy' and where I start to rethink everything I know about bluecat fishing.

The rod Dana has the fish on had a small circle hook, perhaps a 4/0 circle, with a small piece of bait.  The small piece of bait has been used in the last four or five spots.  It was just a pretty piece of bait, and we kept on using it.  I am a firm believer in fishing for big blue cats with fresh bait, which means changing everytime you reel in.  For some reason, we just kept on casting out this little piece of shad on a little hook.  That is the rod we usually use to catch a smaller fish to cook and eat.

Dana is reeling in his fish, and rod is really bent over far, but I've seen that rod catch 50 and 60 pound fish before and it didn't really look much different.  Tony is up high on the boat, looking down at the scene happening on the stern of the Discovery Barge II from the top of a storage bench.  I hear Tony yell, "I saw a really big tail."  I saw a huge swirl on the top of the water.  When I saw the swirl, I knew it was big, then almost instantly I saw the fish.  Wow, what a monster catfish.  We got her in the net and it was all I had to get that big girl over the railings of the boat.  Awesome.

Upon weighing the fish, it showed 81 pounds.  Minus the three for the net the fish was in while weighing, I pronounced proudly, "We have a new boat record ... 78 pounds!"  We checked it three times and sure enough a boat record by five pounds.  The old record was 73.  With that said, I give the official boat record to Dana Eggers, from North Carolina with his 78 pound blue catfish.  Congratulations Dana!  --Capt. Mike

The Photos Stories?  Top Right:  Dana and a head shot of his 78 pound blue catfish.  You really get an idea of the size of it when you look at the size of the fishes head compared to the size of Dana's.  --Photo by Capt. Mike

Left:  This is the shot that shows how big this blue cat really looks.  I still can't believe the size of the this fish.  --Photo by Tony Horsley