Earlier this month, angler Micheal John Drake hooked a giant blue catfish while casting cut shad in the Ohio River, about an hour northwest of Charleston, West Virginia. According to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WVDNR), the big blue cat tipped official scales at 69.45 pounds, edging out the previous weight record by 36 ounces.
Drake—a resident of the nearby town of St. Albans—released the fish after WVDNR hatchery manager Ryan Bosserman came out to record its weight and length for the record books. Bosserman taped it out at 50.51 inches, just shy of the current length record of 50.7 inches. That fish was caught by Steven Price in the Kanawah River in May 2022. Price’s blue cat weighed 67 pounds.
According to a recent press release, Drake was fishing the Ohio from his boat, just below the R.C. Byrd Locks and Dam, when he hauled the record-breaking catfish aboard. Blue catfish are native to the Ohio River watershed, and their indigenous range extends as far west as the Rio Grande Basin.
On the East Coast, blue catfish are considered an invasive species. In the 1970s and 80s, blue catfish were intentionally stocked in non-native waterways for recreational fishing purposes. Now they’re known to feed on and outcompete the native species in some of those fisheries. They even thrive in coastal waters, like the Chesapeake Bay, where they can wreak havoc on blue crab, striped bass, shad, herring, and Atlantic sturgeon populations.
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On its website, WVDNR says that “recent stocking efforts have likely contributed to the establishment of fishable populations within the West Virginia portions of Ohio River.” Those efforts began in 2004, and the state has logged a new record for the species almost annually ever since. WVDNR advises anglers in search of blue cats to fish flowing water bodies with streambeds comprised of cobble, bedrock, boulders, or sand. “Blue catfish generally inhabit open water,” the agency states, “and they are thought to avoid backwater areas and slow-moving water with heavily silted bottoms.”