April 22, 2014
By Andrew Vanlaningham
Either there's something in the water, or a pair of Florida anglers have a knack for catching world record sharks.
Joey Polk and his cousin Earnie Polk are making news with their potential world record-breaking mako. With Earnie's assistance, Joey caught what is likely a new world record shortfin mako from the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico near Navarre, Fla., about a half hour outside of Pensacola.
The 11-foot, 805-pound mako was taken with heavy tackle after nearly an hour of struggling in the late-night hours of Tuesday last week.
Any hopes the duo had of avoiding publicity faded with the snap of a camera. With the tail and dorsal fin spilling out of Polk's truck, it would've been hard not to notice the giant shark, especially when transporting in broad daylight.
A photo of the mako was taken by a passerby at a Florida gas station and quickly went viral over the weekend when the Pensacola News Journal posted the photo on their Facebook page. With over 3,000 shares and interest spreading, it didn't take long before the newspaper tracked down the anglers.
"That's probably the best fish we ever caught," Earnie Polk told the Pensacola News Journal. "You'll spend many, many hours to catch a fish of that caliber, or a fish of that size."
The cousins typically return what they catch — of the 300 sharks they caught in the last year, roughly 20 weren't returned to the water. In most instances, the cousins cooperated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and their National Marine Fisheries Service's Cooperative Shark Tagging Program in tagging the sharks they catch for the agency before release.
However, the possible record-breaking mako was one instance where they determined the shark was too injured to be returned.
"We release about 98 percent of what we catch...we only bring in the ones too injured to swim away," said Polk.
Plus, they were probably aware that the mako was one for the record books. After all, the cousins are no strangers when it comes to world-record sharks.
The Milton, Fla., resident already holds an International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association record for tiger sharks with his 949-pounder caught in 2010, just a month after Earnie set the then world-record with a 928-pounder.
It just so happens that Earnie also currently holds the ILSFA world record for shore-caught makos with his 674-pounder caught in 2009. That record appears to be in jeopardy as Joey's recent catch aims to smash that record. Joey has submitted his forms to the ILSFA for consideration as the new record-holder.
And, as you might imagine, Joey was there for and shares both of Earnie's records.
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.