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 and unpredictable this sport can be. That happened yesterday on the James River ... again.

I had a trip booked with a 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. It was a fine day of fishing already as we catch a few decent catfish in the 24 to 35 pound range along with a couple of smaller ones. One of those "eating sized" catfish was a meaty six pounder which I filleted, cubed and marinated in preparation for an excellent fried fish lunch. Having hunters on the boat is always a bonus ... during the day we also ate smoked duck breast, marinated duck, and venison sausage with crackers. 

When I cook, I like to set up in calm waters that are not often upset by passing boats. Hot oil and wakes from boaters are manageable, but unwanted, so I anchored in the old river channel (secret spot) where I like to fish ... and cook. We cast out the lines and I started the process of cooking lunch. I whiped up some homemade tartar sauce and dropped the fresh fried catfish in hot oil. Soon we were eating like river kings with fresh fried fish, tarter and one of the guys had some buffalo sauce he brought. Although it didn't need the spicy addition, dipping the fried catfish strip into a little buffalo wing sauce, then into homemade tartar. Wow .... Mmmmmmm, mmmmmm good.

About 30 minutes into the location we fished and ate a 21-pound blue cat chomped one of our baits. Ten minutes later, lunch was wrapped up and we were ready to go but the weather, scenery and stories were as good as it gets, so I decided to give it an extra five minutes. We were talking about the pair of eagles flying around us, and 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. It has a solid reel, a Shimano Calcutta 400 spooled with 20-pound monofilament baited with a small circle hook and a small piece of gizzard shad, as that was the pole that was out set up for eating sized blue catfish ... those about eight pounds or smaller.

Here's where it gets 'fishy' and where I start to rethink everything I know about bluecat fishing.

I am a firm believer in fishing for big blue cats with fresh bait, which means changing out the bait every time you reel in the line.  For some reason, we kept casting out the same little piece of shad on the small rod, with the small circle hook. 

Dana is reeling in his fish, and the rod is bent over as far as I've seen, and I've witnessed that rod catch huge blue catfish over 60 pounds before. Tony is perched up high on a storage bench, amidships, looking down at the scene on the stern of the Discovery Barge II.  Tony yells, "I saw a really big tail!" at the time a huge swirl appeared about 20 yards away. A short time later we saw it ... Wow, what a monster catfish. We got her in the net and it took all I had to get that big girl in the net over the railings of the boat. It was awesome!

Upon weighing the fish, it read 81 pounds. Minus three pounds for the net, I worked out the simple math in my head and 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 official boat record now belonged 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 fish's 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 this fish.  --Photo by Tony Horsley