Record Blue Catfish Caught In Maryland
Shawn Wetzel holds up his record blue catfish.Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Shawn Wetzel of Orrtana, Pennsylvania, caught a whopping 80-pound, 12-ounce blue catfish on February 23 in the Potomac River near Fort Washington, annihilating the old state record by 13 pounds.
?The rod went down hard, and I knew it was something big,? said the 27-year-old. ?At one point, I was on my knees trying to lift the fish, and my back was burning.?
The previous record fish weighed just over 67 pounds and was caught in 2008 by Ron Lewis in the Potomac not far from where Wetzel caught his fish.
Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi River Valley and were introduced to the James and Rappahannock Rivers in the 1970s. Since then, the fish have reproduced and spread throughout the tidal Potomac River system. Flathead catfish, another non-native invasive species, and blue catfish have subsequently turned up in the Nanticoke, Susquehanna and Northeast Rivers, Upper Chesapeake Bay and other waters.
?We recognize the enthusiasm and economic impact of anglers in search of record catfish,? said DNR Fisheries Service Director, Tom O?Connell. ?However, we don?t want to encourage the development and spread of this species. As top predators, they are a serious threat to native species, which provide ecological and economic benefits to the region.?
Blue and flathead catfish are invasive, non-native species that are long-lived, fast growing and opportunistic feeders. Consequently, State and Federal fisheries managers are concerned about their affect on the ecosystem, and are working together to develop strategies to mitigate their impact.
The Chesapeake Bay Program?s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Team, which includes representatives from several different conservation and scientific organizations, recently adopted a Chesapeake Bay blue and flathead catfish policy to reduce these catfish populations and to stem their spread.
Anglers should know that it is illegal to transport live blue and flathead catfish for the purpose of introduction into another body of water. Additionally, DNR officials are asking anglers to remove and kill any blue and flathead catfish that they catch. This is a fishery where the practice of catch and release is discouraged by resource managers.