The Largest Blue Catfish Ever Caught in Arkansas

Written by Kellianne Matthews
Published: March 22, 2024
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If you’re looking for catfish, then Arkansas is the place to be! These whiskered aquatic creatures thrive in nearly all of the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams. In fact, Arkansas is one of the top catfish producers in the United States. Popular with both anglers as well as diners, catfish are a staple of Arkansas cuisine. The undisputed king here is the blue catfish — the largest catfish species in North America. But just how big do these giants get? Dive in and check out the largest blue catfish ever caught in Arkansas!

How Big Was the Largest Blue Catfish Ever Caught in Arkansas?

Blue catfish

Blue catfish are often the top predators where they live.

©U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Public domain – License

When Charles Ashley Jr. headed out on the Mississippi River with his friends on August 3, 2001, he wasn’t expecting to reel in anything too crazy. A resident of Marion, Ashley was fishing downstream from the Interstate 55 bridge, using a bit of Hormel Spam as bait. Although no one caught anything for a good 30 minutes, suddenly something snagged onto Ashley’s 20-pound line. It took 45 minutes to carefully reel the fish in, and when the trio finally laid eyes on the giant, they knew there was no way their net was big enough. Instead, Ashley continued tiring the fish out until they could wrestle it into the boat. 

It was the largest blue catfish ever caught in Arkansas, weighing in at 116 pounds, 12 ounces. The blue cat was certified as the Arkansas rod-and-reel record and as an all-tackle world record. 

How Big Do Blue Catfish in Arkansas Usually Get?

Blue catfish on white background

On rare occasions, blue catfish can grow over 5 feet long!

©USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) are the largest catfish species in North America, although in Arkansas they don’t usually grow quite as big as the one that Ashley caught in 2001. On average, Arkansas’ blue catfish range from 25 to 46 inches long and weigh 30 to 70 pounds. 

However, on rare occasions, much larger fish have been sighted. In 1995, John D. Harmon caught a blue catfish that weighed 116 pounds, 8 ounces. Later that year, Raymond Gray caught a 96-pound blue catfish in the Mississippi River. And in 1999, Jonathan Stortz reeled in a 5-foot-long blue catfish weighing 102 pounds. 

Where Do Blue Catfish Live in Arkansas?

Blue Catfish

Blue catfish prefer spending time in deep waters.

©M Huston/

Blue catfish in Arkansas can be found in many of the state’s major rivers, reservoirs, and lakes. The Mississippi River and the Arkansas River, in particular, are well known for their healthy populations of blue catfish. 

In addition to blue catfish, there are at least 30 other catfish species in Arkansas, including channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), flat catfish (Pylodictis olivaris), and bullhead catfish (Ameiurus). Nearly every body of water in Arkansas is home to some kind of catfish, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission produces up to 1.3 million catfish in hatcheries each year. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © 226794761/

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, analyzing movies, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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