Whale of a tale of a river monster

I once caught a blue catfish from the Ohio River, on the Kentucky side a mile downriver from Grant Bridge, which sprung the handheld scales down to 35 pounds. The blue catfish is a powerful fighter. I was fishing from a 12-foot wooden johnboat and I thought the fish would either pull me in or sink the boat. It towed me a good 50 yards out into the river before I was able to wear it down and bring it in.

I showed it off to a few people up in the village of Beattyville before hurrying it back to the river and releasing it. Unlike other gilled creatures that swim in the deep, an old catfish can live quite a spell out of water. It righted itself immediately and swam off.

After experiencing the power a fish that size showed, I’m left to wonder what Mike Pruitt must have felt when he hooked and landed a blue cat from the Mississippi River that stood for a time as the world record for the species. This is old news now, of course, but worthy of retelling nearly 11 years after his epic battle. It demonstrates that if you take time to go fishing you never know what might happen.

Pruitt, from Alton, Ill., was using cut herring (skipjack) for bait in mid-May 2005 when he hooked the big fish. He was 40 minutes landing it, according to news reports. It received nationwide media attention. He tried to keep it alive and display it in a glass tank for public viewing, but several days later it died.

Two weeks after the catch Pruitt filed an application for a new world record with the International Game Fish Association, the organization which, among its many duties, maintains world records for both freshwater and saltwater game fishes. The application included certified weight documentation, witness statements, photographs and line sample.

The IGFA approved the 124-pound blue as the world record for the species – both as the all-tackle record and the 50-pound line classification record. Pruitt’s fish broke the all-tackle record by three pounds over a 121-pound blue catfish caught in Lake Texoma, Texas, by Cody Mullennix in January, 2004. Pruitt’s 50 pound line class record bested a blue catfish caught in 1999 by Bruce Midkiff at the Cannelton Dam on the Ohio River in Kentucky.

He planned to have his fish mounted and put on loan to the nearby National Great Rivers Museum in East Alton, Ill.

As big as Pruitt’s fish was, it has since been replaced by one that was 19 pounds heavier! That 143-pounder was landed by Richard Anderson on June 18, 2011 from Kerr Lake in Virginia.

Founded in 1939, the IGFA is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping.

IGFA members are located in over 125 countries and territories.

The IGFA welcomes visitors to its 60,000-square foot interactive Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum at its headquarters in Dania Beach, Fla.

The IGFA web site is www.igfa.org.


It now costs $235 to send a youngster for one week to a state conservation camp such as Camp Robert Webb, located along the shore of Grayson Lake. One kid who might not have been able to afford the fee will now get to go this summer, thanks to the efforts of the Kentucky Outdoor Press Association.

KOPA officials met Friday in front of the Greenup County Court House and presented a check for that amount to Jessie Spears-Nelson, who serves as Conservation Education Program Leader for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ 8th Wildlife District.

Youngsters attending the camp learn all about conservation, hunting and fishing ethics, good sportsmanship, gun safety, proficiency with bow and arrow, canoeing, and other events connected with enjoyment of the outdoors. The young person who will be the benefactor of the gift has already been chosen, Spears-Nelson said.

This is the third consecutive year the writers’ group has provided the money for a young person to attend the camp.

Association members presenting the check included Tom Clay, president; Wanda Clay, treasurer; Chris Irwin, secretary; Soc Clay, life member; and yours truly.

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G. Sam Piatt

PDT Outdoors Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected].

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