May 02, 2014
By Andrew Vanlaningham
As the old saying goes, sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time. A West Virginia angler can certainly attest to that after catching a new state record blue catfish.
Austin Hoffman, 22, of Cabell County, was out on the Ohio River testing some new gear when he hooked the record-breaker on April 26. His once-in-a-lifetime monster blue came in measuring 47.75 inches and weighed a whopping 52.95 pounds, both of which considerably smashed the old state record. Mark Foster held the previous record with his 44.5 pound, 43.9 inch blue caught in 2012.
Hoffman, however, had no intention of making the record-setting catch when the day started. He and his girlfriend were heading towards a specific location to test a new drift rod holder setup on the Ohio River, near the Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam. As the duo drifted downstream, they set lines in both the front and back of the boat for the test.
"About the time I started reeling the ones on the rear up, I saw the front one go down," Hoffman told the MetroNews. "I fought him for about 15 minutes and when I got him to the surface, there was no doubt in my mind it was a new state record."
Using a piece of frozen skipjack as his bait, Hoffman, a Marshall University biology major, was able to successfully reel in the monster blue even without a net.
"It was pretty exciting and I knew I was going to have to get this fish in without a net," said Hoffman. "Blue cats tend to roll and I was afraid he was going to roll up in the line. I'm generally a pretty calm person when it comes to that. I got him in the boat without breaking him off, so that was nice."
"We suspect records for a new fish like this is going to be broken quite a lot," said biologist Scott Morrison, who certified the new record. "However, this time it wasn't broken by just a pound or so, it was broken by a considerable amount."
Hoffman's catch by the dam is intriguing for more than just the record, though. Blues had largely been eliminated from the Ohio River in recent decades, in large part due to the construction of locks and dams. His catch indicates that a program of repopulating the rivers with blues initiated by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources five years ago is working remarkably.
Hoffman was able to keep his catch alive for 24 hours, long enough to measure and verify the record, by stuffing it in the live well of his Bass Tracker boat.
"I was going dirt bike riding Sunday evening and I didn't want to drive all the way back to the Ohio River," explained Hoffman. "So I released him alive into the Kanawha River at the St. Albans boat ramp."
is currently one of the hottest states for trophy catfish, particularly monster blues, many of which are being caught in lakes Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick on the Tennessee River.
Guides like Mike Mitchell (right) of Southern Cats Guide Service, are helping clients catch numerous 80-pound-plus fish, like this 102-pounder landed by Joe Ludtke (left) in 2010.
waters have produced some of the biggest cats ever seen, including this 116-3/4-pound former world record blue, a 139-pound flathead (caught on a snagline) and channel cats to 51 pounds.
Top trophy waters include the Mississippi, White, St. Francis, Arkansas and Little rivers and lakes Ouachita, Millwood, Conway and White Oak.
originally had no native blue or channel catfish, but transplants from other states flourished and grew to huge sizes.
Now it's common to see channel cats like this 38-pounder, especially in southern trout-stocked lakes like Irvine, which produced a rare 50-pounder. Blues grow huge, too. San Vicente Reservoir produced the 113-pound state record.
legislature named Lake Des Allemandes 'The Catfish Capital of the Universe. ' Like many Bayou State waters, it harbors loads of big channel, blue and flathead catfish.
But, currently, the Louisiana portion of the Mississippi River is in the big-fish limelight, thanks to this 114-pound state-record blue cat caught in March by 12-year-old Lawson Boyte of Oak Grove.
half a million catfish anglers have no problem finding waters where big whiskerfish abound. The Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Louis harbors lots of giants like this 64-pound blue.
But Show-Me State trophy hotspots number in the scores, including the Mississippi, Grand and Osage rivers and lakes Truman and Montrose.
often gets overlooked when trophy cat states are mentioned, but the monster channel cats caught there make it a must-visit locale.
They often exceed 30 pounds, like this heavyweight specimen caught by guide Brad Durick and his son Braden on the Red River, perhaps the top trophy channel cat fishery in the U.S.
anglers like Robby Robinson, pictured here with a 62-pound Buckeye State flathead, have been hush-hush about their state's great catfishing. But word is out that Ohio is a top destination for monster cats.
Flatheads, channel cats and blues all grow big in the Ohio River. Other hotspots include Lake Erie (channels and blues); Hoover Reservoir (channel cats) and Muskingum and Maumee rivers (flatheads).
is best known for big flatheads, like this one caught by Haydn and Owen Williams of Grove. During the past decade, however, records for all major catfish species have been broken.
Lake Texoma produced a 98-pound record blue, Taft Lake a 35-pound, 15-ounce channel cat, and El Reno City Reservoir a 78.5-pound flathead. It's anyone's guess where the next monster will surface.
encompasses numerous trophy catfish waters, but none better known than the Santee-Cooper lakes — Marion and Moultrie — which produced the 58-pound, world-record channel cat and a former record 109-pound blue.
Some say the lakes are past their prime, but they still churn out lots of mega-cats, including flatheads like this big-mouthed Moultrie monster.
anglers have been landing astounding numbers of huge blue cats in recent years, like this 83-pound Mississippi River monster Owen Shroeder (left) caught while fishing with guide James Patterson.
The Mississippi, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers all have produced triple-digit-weight rod-and-reel fish, with Tennessee River impoundments like Fort Loudoun, Watts Bar, Nickajack and Chickamauga especially hot right now.
is home to 1 million catfish anglers. Luckily for them, trophy waters abound. Big channel cat producers include the Brazos and Colorado rivers and Lake Amistad. Lakes Livingston, Tawakoni and Palestine are blue-ribbon flathead waters.
Five reservoirs have produced 80-pound-plus blues: Conroe, Sam Rayburn, Lake Fork, Gibbons Creek and Texoma, where guide Cody Mullennix (left) caught this 121.5-pound state record.
showed up on catfish anglers' radar in 2011 when this 143-pound, world-record blue was caught in Buggs Island Lake. Many thought the James River, which produces hundreds of 30- to 60-pound blues annually, might give up such a fish.
Lake Gaston and the Potomac River are blues hotspots, too. For 20-pound-plus channel cats, the Blackwater and Pamunkey rivers are tops.