Blue catfish angler Zakk Royce has done something that most anglers only dream about – pull in a record-setting blue catfish. Not only did Royce break North Carolina’s blue catfish record in December of 2015 with a 91-pound fish, he broke it again less than 24 hours later with one weighing in at 105 pounds.
Two months after that, in February 2016, Royce pulled in a certified 100-pound blue cat, making him the record-holder for the three biggest fish ever caught in North Carolina.
Behind every big blue catfish story are hidden details that other anglers want to know, like what bait was used, what techniques and any tips that could help them land the same kind of catch.
The truth is, some anglers just end up at the right place at the right time; some have spent years perfecting their techniques and others have relentless dedication to time on the water.
Anglers who can say their fish have tipped the scales over 100-pounds recognize their crowning achievement. The rest of us just want to know, ‘how did you catch that?’”
1. It is not uncommon for Zakk Royce to spend 72 hours straight on the water, so when he targeted Lake Gaston in North Carolina in December 2015 he was ready for anything.
Using his preferred techniques of drifting and trolling, Royce used cut bait shad to fish on the bottom. After several days of 40–60 pound blue catfish, Royce remembers cooler temperatures blowing in and a change in his luck.
On December 20th, Royce pulled in a 91-pound blue catfish crushing the 2006 North Carolina record of 89 pounds. After the fish was certified, Royce released it and kept fishing in the same spot, off of the same side of the boat. That’s when his second huge blue took the bait.
“At one point I actually thought the fish was going to spool me as it was stripping so much line off my reel. Finally, after a half hour I had the fish beside the boat, but it would not fit in the net,” said Royce.
The 105-pound catfish with a 41-inch girth and 55 ¾ inches long, broke the record Royce set the day before.
Two months later, also on Lake Gaston, Royce landed a 100-pound blue cat, making him the record holder of the top three blue catfish in North Carolina.
Royce, who runs Blues Brothers Guide Service and practices catch and release of larger fish, has targeted trophy blue catfish on Lake Gaston for 15 years. He often takes clients to the same stretch of waterway and even the exact location where he caught is record fish.
2. Richard Nicholas Anderson caught this world record 143-pound blue catfish on Kerr Reservoir on BuggsIsland Lake in Virginia on June 18, 2011. The catfish currently holds the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record for blues for all line classes. Anderson used a drifting method and caught the behemoth blue on chicken and 50-pound test line in a fight that lasted for 45 minutes.
Kerr is the largest reservoir in Virginia and one of the largest in the entire Southeastern United States. It is located between North Carolina and Virginia and fed by the Roanoke River and Dan River. With an average depth of 30 feet and reaching 100 feet at the John H. Kerr Dam, the lake is popular for recreational fishing, and the occasional trophy blue catfish.
3. Lake Texomain Texas has produced a number of record catfish over the years, but this 121-pound, 8-ounce trophy blue caught by Cody Mullenixon January 16, 2004, landed him in the IGFA world record books. Mullenix was bait fishing with shad on 20-pound test line. The record blue catfish was caught with rod and reel after a 20-minute fight and was relocated to a freshwater aquarium in Athens, Texas.
Located on the Red River between Oklahoma and Texas, Lake Texoma reaches depths of 100 feet. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ranks fishing prospects for blue catfish as “excellent” in this lake. Most catfish in Lake Texoma range between five and 70-pounds, but as evidenced by this world record catch, there are some that grow even bigger.
4. This 116-pound, 12-ounce monster blue catfish caught in the Mississippi River in Arkansas by Charles Ashley Jr.,broke both state and world records on August 03, 2001. Ashley rigged up spam on the end of his 16-pound test line and used a casting method along the river.
The result was a 45-minute struggle with a trophy blue catfish that landed Ashley in the record books for both the IGFA and the state of Arkansas.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirms that the state’s major rivers – the Mississippi River (near Helena-West Helena), Arkansas River and White River – are the best locations for angers who are chasing big blue catfish. But, those are not the only places trophy blues are hiding in the state.
“Our clear water reservoirs, like Lake Maumelle, are often overlooked, but they have quite a few blue catfish in there,” said Randy Zellers, Assistant Chief of Communications, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
5. William McKinley landed this 111-pound world record blue catfish from Wheeler Reservoir in Alabama on July 5, 1996. According to the IGFA, McKinley was casting with 30-pound test line and using skipjack for bait when his record blue took hold. The fish wrested for 20-25 minutes before it was caught.
This catch held the world record for overall blues certified by the IGFA and the Alabama state record for several years. McKinley’s world record was broken in 2011 (though he still hold it for line-class) and his state record broken in 2012.
Wheeler reservoir is a popular tributary of the Tennessee River for trophy blue catfish. Located in north central Alabama, Wheeler is the state’s second largest reservoir and attracts anglers from throughout the country.
With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, Wheeler gives anglers ample opportunity to fish for the trophy blue cats.
6. Another impressive catch from Wheeler Reservoir is this 105-pound blue catfish caught by John Nordykein January of 2015. The fish was caught while Nordyke,of Missouri, was prepping for the Winter Blues on Wheeler tournament on the Alabama Catfish Trail. Nordyke and Captain Jason Bridges were anchored, fishing with skipjack in the rain and windy conditions.
Nordyke caught the trophy blue within the first hour of fishing, landing his personal best. Unfortunately, his trophy catch happened during practice rounds and did not count towards his tournament total. He was bottom fishing in the lower section of Wheeler Lake when the fish hit.
Some of the blue catfish that come out of Wheeler Reservoir tip the scales over 100-pounds, which is why anglers target this area.
7. San Vicente Reservoir in California is has quite a reputationwhen it comes to trophy blue catfish, due in part to catches like this 101-pound fish caught by Roger Rohrbouck of Nebraska. Rohrbouck, who was bait fishing with medium shiners trying to catch bass, caught the attention of a record-breaking blue catfish instead.
His catch on 12-pound test line broke the IGFA line-class world record on March 12, 2000. It took Rohrbouck a half hour to wrestle the fish.
Rohrbouck also held the California state blue catfish record for several years until it was broken by Steve Oudomsouk’s 113.4-pound catch on July 24, 2008. Oudomsouk’s giant blue catfish was also caught in San Vicente Reservoir.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says that San Vicente produces large blue catfish due to its abundance of habitat and forage.
“The lake has a lot of huge boulders and caves that they like to hang out in during the day (and spawn in) and will forage on an abundant sunfish, crayfish and seasonal stocked trout population,” said Quinn Granfors, Environmental Specialist, California Department for Fish & Wildlife.
Granfors has also heard of large blue cats coming out of the Lower Otay and Lake Jennings.
8. Alabama is no stranger to trophy blue catfish, but this 120-pound, 4-ounce catch out of Holt Reservoir is notable. John Paul Nichols was targeting trophy blues on March 09, 2012. He focused on a stretch of the Black Warrior River in Holt Reservoir that he fished frequently, just upstream of Tuscaloosa.
Fishing with chicken gizzard in 60 feet of water, Nichols landed this staggeringly enormous blue catfish, which surprised even officials at the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“I was as shocked as anyone that this large-of-a catfish came out of this stretch of river. It is a deep, steep-sided stretch of river with steep rocky banks and it’s rare to see this specimen to get this large,” said Jay Haffner, District Fisheries Biologist, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Nichols’ catch is currently the state blue catfish record for Alabama.
9. Greg Bernalmade headlines in Missouri when he caught this 130-pound blue catfish on the Missouri River in 2010, setting the state record. Bernal used rod and reel to fish from his boat using 40-pound test line. Using silver carp for bait, Bernal planned a short outing to beat an approaching storm system. He started fishing at 9:00 p.m. and planned to finish by 1:00 a.m.
The behemoth blue hit just minutes before Bernal called it a night. He thought the line was caught on the bottom, but soon realized he was in for a fight. It took Bernal 15-minutes to pull the fish to the boat and another half hour to officially land it.
With a length of 57-inches and a girth of 45-inches, even the authorities at the Missouri Department of Conservation were in shock at the sheer size of this fish.
Fisheries biologists estimated Bernal’s catfish at the time of catch to be close to 30-years old.
10. A 14-year old boy from Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee holds one of the most remarkable line-class world records for his 109-pound, 12-ounce blue catfish. The IGFA certified Zachary Lovelady’s record catch on 8-pound test line on March 31, 2005.
Lovelady used cut bait and fought the catfish for three hours on Chickamauga Lake before finally landing it. He told the local newspaper that he had to walk down the bank six times during his fight before his friends jumped into the water and grabbed the 137.6-inch long fish.
While Lovelady still holds the world record for his line-class, he was two pounds shy of the Tennessee state record. Robert Lewis still holds the blue catfish record for Tennessee for his 112-pound catch on the Cumberland River on June 7, 1998.