There are always fish stories of the “one that got away”, but there are also some fish stories that end with a documented record-breaking catch! Blue catfish are the largest catfish species in the US with Flatheads and Channel catfish coming in behind. They are typically 2-4 feet long and weigh an average of 30-50 pounds. Some can get quite a bit larger. Florida has some rivers with excellent catfish fishing including the Escambia and Yellow Rivers. Other anglers swear by their favorite spots on the Apalachicola and Suwannee Rivers as well. Let’s find out about the largest blue catfish ever caught in Florida.
How Big was the Largest Blue Catfish Ever Caught in Florida?
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the largest Blue catfish ever caught in Florida was 69.5 pounds. However, a 120 pound Blue catfish was caught, and verified, in April of 2018. The second fish did not break the official record because it was caught with a trotline and not a “rod and reel”. We will look at both epic catches here!
The Story Behind the 69.5 Pound Blue Catfish Caught in Florida
William Stewart III (Bill) participated in the Choctawhatchee Catfish Roundup tournament on May 30, 2015. He started out by catching four Flathead catfish followed by a good sized channel catfish. Bill decided to swap out his bait for the head of a skipjack herring which he put on a big circle hook. That was exactly what the largest blue catfish was craving! It took the bait, put up a fight but ultimately was reeled in by Bill. After locating an official Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Investigator he had the fish measured and weighed. It was 49.5 inches long (a little over 4 feet) and weighed 69.5 pounds. He beat the previous record which was 64.5 pounds by James Mitchell back in 2008. That fish was also caught in the Choctawhatchee River in the panhandle of Florida.
The Story Behind the 120 Pound Blue Catfish Caught in Florida
Many people look forward to a time when they can retire. Looking forward to traveling, spending more time with friends and family and some look forward to hunting and fishing. Joel Singletary is a retiree whose dream came true when he hauled in one of the largest blue catfish ever caught in Florida.
On April 11, 2018, Joel was out fishing on the Choctawhatchee River (same river where the 69.5 pounder was caught). After catching it he immediately questioned how on earth was he going to get it into his boat? In a rush of adrenaline he was able to haul the huge fish into the boat and get it home. When he got home he knew he had a big one and contacted the officials to get it measured. He had to use hooks and pulleys just to get the fish out of the boat. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation measured the fish at 120.35 pounds!
What is the Largest Blue Catfish Ever Caught in the World?
The largest blue catfish ever caught was a 143 pound blue cat caught by Richard Nicolas Anderson on June 18, 2011. This was not caught on the Choctawhatchee River, there seems to be an even better fishing spot for giant blue catfish. This one was caught in Kerr Lake on Buggs Island, Virginia. Richard and a few friends were drift fishing where they lower their lines and let the boat drift. He used chicken as his bait of choice and it worked. He snagged the giant catfish and fought with it for 45 minutes before getting it into the boat. The International Game Fish Association verifies all world record breaking fish.
What is the Largest Catfish Ever Caught in the World?
The largest catfish in the world is the Giant Mekong Catfish which can be found in China, Thailand and southeast Asia. These are the largest all freshwater fish in the world. The average Mekong catfish is 350-450 pounds but some can get quite a bit larger. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest Mekong Giant Catfish was 8 ft 10 in and 646 pounds! This one was caught in northern Thailand in 2005 and the record holds true today.
Where is the Best Place to Find Large Blue Catfish in Florida?
If you are inspired by these fish tales and want to give it a shot at breaking the record there are a few spots in Florida that are excellent for catfish fishing.
The Choctawhatchee River
This river is located in the panhandle of the state running north to south into the Choctawhatchee Bay before draining into the Gulf of Mexico. You can already see how many record-breaking catfish have been caught here. Fishing experts recommend the northern part of the river for the largest catfish including blue, flathead and channel cats.
The Apalachicola River
East of the Choctawhatchee is the Apalachicola River which empties into the Apalachicola Bay near the town with the same name. Fishing for all three kinds of catfish are good here with the area between Jim Woodruff Dam south to Owl Creek being the best. The best bait for blue cats in this area is fresh cut bait such as mullet.
The Escambia River
The Escambia River starts in Alabama and is actually called the Conecuh River in that state, then crosses over into the northern part of the panhandle of Florida. According to the FWCC there are 85 kinds of native freshwater fish in this river including channel, flathead and blue catfish. The best recommended fishing is in between the state line and the I-10 bridge.
Lakes in Southwest Florida
Some of the best catfish fishing is in fast moving rivers but catfish can also be found in the deep areas of lakes. Try the Tenoroc Fish Management Area, Mosaic Fish Management Area, and Hardee Lakes Park for channel cats and bullheads too!
Based on the records I think I would stick to The Choctawhatchee River if I wanted to catch the next largest blue catfish in Florida!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © M Huston/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.