Wilson and Ayers knew they were into a big fish, but they weren't sure exactly how big until it came boatside. Surprisingly, it took only about 20 minutes to best the cat, which according to Wilson is about an average fight time for a large blue.
On May 20, 2009, Virginia anglers Dan Ayers (left) and Tim Wilson went catfishing on the James River. As of that day, Ayers’ heaviest blue catfish weighed about 20 pounds; Wilson’s about 40. But by the end of the day, the two would best the state record blue caught by Archie Gold in 2006. Gold’s cat weighed 95.11 pounds. Wilson and Ayers’ fish would come in at 102.4 pounds. Its status as a new Virginia state record was pending until Thursday, May 28, when the record was officially approved, according to Wilson. Here’s the story of the catch…and release. Larry Scarborough
It was about 12:30 p.m. when something picked up one of the cut shad pieces the angling team was soaking near Dutch Gap Landing. According to Wilson, a midday bite is not uncommon. “You can catch blues 24 hours a day,” he said. “There is no wrong time.” Larry Scarborough
Wilson and Ayers knew they were into a big fish, but they weren’t sure exactly how big until it came boatside. Surprisingly, it took only about 20 minutes to best the cat, which according to Wilson is about an average fight time for a large blue. Larry Scarborough
It took both anglers to wrestle the cat over the gunwale. All Wilson had on board was digital scale, and it was difficult to get what he was convinced was an accurate reading. “At the time I thought the state record was 98 pounds,” Wilson said. “My little scale was reading 93. So I thought we may have beaten the record but we needed a better scale to prove it. That’s when I called the guys at Castaway Sporting Goods near the ramp.” Larry Scarborough
“The safety of this fish is very important to me,” Wilson told Wayne Andrews at Castaway over the phone. “We don’t want this fish to die.” So the duo wet a bunch of towels, wrapped the catfish and secured it in the bottom of their boat. Then it was off to the ramp. Larry Scarborough
The fish was first weighed at Castaway on a digital scale while in a cooler. Larry Scarborough
Here, Dan Ayers lifts the fish to move it quickly to the hanging scale at Castaway. Larry Scarborough
Here’s the fish on the scale at Castaway. Larry Scarborough
The scale at Castaway read 100 pounds. It was a potential new state record, and after getting the weight, Wilson and Ayers rushed the fish back to the river where they placed it in their landing net and laid it in the water. Fisheries Biologists from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries were on their way after recieving a call from the tackle shop, but it would take them some time to arrive. In the meantime Andrews brought a 100 gallon tank to the river that would house the fish more comfortably. Larry Scarborough
According to Wilson, there was “some snafu with the weight certification on the scale at Castaway” once Bob Greenlee and John Harris from VDGIF arrived. Greenlee suggested transporting the fish 30 miles away to Green Top Sporting Goods and weighing it on their certified scale. With the help of Greenlee’s aerated livewell, the decision was made that they could get the fish there and back safely and in healthy condition. Larry Scarborough
News of the possible record en route to Green Top traveled quickly. Upon arrival, the anglers were greated with many pats on the back and hand shakes. Larry Scarborough
After a long ride, Bob Greenlee (left) moves the fish from his tank to the scale at Green Top. Larry Scarborough
It was at Green Top that the final official weight of 102.4 pounds was recorded. All that had to be done now was get the fish back to the river. “Bob Greenlee said he could take care of getting the fish back, or I could,” said Wilson. “I left it to him. We told him about where we’d like to see it released.” With the blue back in the livewell, it began its 30-mile journey home. Larry Scarborough
Wilson recieved a call the next morning from Greenlee that the catfish swam away in 100% health. A few more years and someone might knock Wilson and Ayers off the chart with the same cat. The team waited a week and a day to get word that the fish had been officially confirmed as a new Virginia state record. Larry Scarborough
Check out these exclusive photos of the new Virginia state record blue catfish, and read about its catch and release.