Big Fish

Getting state-record blue cat to a certified scale proves more than half the battle

October 04, 2006|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Sun reporter

At 65 pounds, 8 ounces, Moby Catfish is every inch the new state record, from its dinner-plate-sized tail to its massive bewhiskered head.

It swims by itself in an aerated pool marked: "Please leave me alone."

Too late.

The blue catfish, caught Saturday on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, just across from Mount Vernon, surpassed the old record by more than 12 pounds.

Its captor, Josh Fitchett of Montpelier, Va., is a competitive bass fisherman who turned to bigger fish just a few years ago and was named 2004 Angler of the Year by the Virginia Catfish Association.

Although he reeled in a much larger blue cat in early September on Virginia's James River, this one meant more. His friend Archie Gold set the Virginia record on July 15, with a 95.1-pound blue cat taken from the James.

But catching the fish was only a minor part of securing the record. Getting the fish to a certified scale proved to be an obstacle bigger than wrestling Moby aboard.

Despite several phone calls, Fitchett couldn't locate the proper scale on the Maryland side of the river.

With his catch resting in his boat's aerated live well, Fitchett cruised back down the Potomac to the ramp at Leesylvania State Park in Virginia. There, he saw an FLW bass fishing tournament weigh-in station.

Bringing a catfish to a bass tournament isn't exactly Emily Post, but Fitchett had nothing to lose. Luckily, tournament director Mark McWha agreed to weigh the fish and swear to its size on the back of his business card.

With card and fish in hand, Fitchett drove to Bass Pro Shops' Outdoors World at Arundel Mills, where fish experts and helping hands were on stand-by.

The catfish was transferred to the aerated pool to await certification by a state Department of Natural Resources biologist. Yesterday, Marty Gary pronounced Moby the cat's meow.

While Maryland's new trophy will never be mistaken for a minnow, it's small by state record standards. Iowa's mark, for example, is 101 pounds. The Texas record is 121 pounds, 8 ounces. The world record was set in Illinois last year: a 124-pound blue cat hauled from the Mississippi River.

In a few weeks, after it passes quarantine, the big blue catfish will move a few feet from solitary confinement to star attraction in the 26,000-gallon aquarium at Bass Pro Shops' Outdoors World in Hanover.

"You won't have trouble picking him out," says Bass Pro spokesman L. Allan Ellis. "He's about the biggest fish in the pond."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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