Prairie State catfish angler Tim Pruitt recently set a fishing record that will be difficult to top.
During a May 21 late-night fishing trip to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River below the Alton Lock and Dam, the Bethalto angler hooked a fish that tested his limits — as well as that of his fishing gear and boat.
Following an exhausting battle that continued for about 40 minutes, Pruitt landed not only the largest catfish ever landed in Illinois, but the biggest blue cat ever caught in the world, a monstrous 124-pound lunker. The tug-of-war dragged the boat containing Pruitt, his wife and a friend for three miles downriver.
The record catch measured 58 inches in length and had a girth of 44 inches, according to Illinois Department of Natural Resources district fisheries biologist Fred Cronin. It weighed in at 124 pounds and topped the previous state record for the species by a phenomenal 39 pounds.
That previous state-record blue catfish also came from the Mississippi River, but nearly 100 miles downstream from Alton.
According to Cronin, Pruitt’s fish outweighed the previous world-record blue catfish by 3 1/2 pounds. That fish was caught in Lake Texoma in Texas.
“While we have already verified the catch as an official Illinois state record, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) who maintains the world records requires a greater amount of information for their verification process,” Cronin explained.
Interestingly, all the publicity surrounding the record catch now has many Alton area anglers concerned that hundreds, if not thousands, of hopeful record-seekers from across the nation will descend upon their secret fishing hole just north of St. Louis.
“I knew it was just a matter of time before someone landed a new state record from these waters.” Cronin said. “There had been several blue catfish in the 80-pound category caught from these same waters in the past year.”
You can read more about Tim Pruitt’s remarkable catch in the August issue of Illinois Game & Fish magazine, available on newsstands July 19.