Giant Mississippi River Catfish Shatters Previous Record Catch

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: November 9, 2022
© Billy Ogle/Flickr – License / Original
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Key Points:

  • One of the biggest catfish in North America, the blue catfish, is on average 25 to 45 inches long, but some can grow up to 65 inches and can weigh up to 150 pounds.
  • The largest catfish caught by a rod and reel was a 111-pound catfish in 1996 by William McFinley.
  • The highly adaptive blue catfish can be found in other rivers such as the Tennessee, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers.

There are over 3,000 species of catfish in the world, with quite distinct ones such as the African electric catfish, which can stun a human up to 450 volts, and the walking catfish. The largest catfish in North America is the Mississippi river catfish, the blue catfish.

Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Rio Grande river basins. However, they are very prolific and have few natural predators so they have expanded their range to include nearly all deep water river basins and have become an invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay. They are tasty and nutritious so one of the management strategies focuses on expanding commercial fishing for Blue Catfish. If you are looking to do some exciting fishing and want to keep your catch for dinner, this is a great choice.

The previous Mississippi state record was 95 pounds (43.09 kilograms), and it has been broken just thirteen years after it was set. Let’s find out more about this new state record holder. 

Blue Catfish, the Giant Mississippi River Catfish

Blue Catfish
The blue catfish is the biggest catfish species in North America, weighing up to 150 pounds.

©M Huston/Shutterstock.com

The blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) is one of the biggest fish species in the Mississippi River and the largest catfish species in North America. These large freshwater fish average 25 to 46 inches (0.64-1.17 meters) in length but can reach 65 inches (0.16 meters) and can weigh up to 150 pounds (68.04 kilograms). Their incredible growth is greatly aided by their voracious eating nature, which means they have a diverse diet, eating any fish species they can find and even frogs.

These giant catfish have whiskers, deeply forked tails, and protruding upper jaws but lack scales. Despite their distinctive bluish gray color, they are often mistaken for channel catfish. The major difference between these two catfish species is the number of rays on their anal fins. The blue catfish has between 30 to 35, which is more than its counterpart, which often spots 25 to 29.

According to the American Catfishing Association, breeding in the species happens once a year between April and June. They mate monogamously, resulting in the female blue catfish producing more than 4,000 eggs. After fertilizing all the eggs, the male chases the female away and stands guard to the nested eggs. These distinctive catfish can live up to 20 years and are considered invasive in some parts of the country.

What is the Rod and Reel Record?

Different fish species of different sizes are hooked out of the rivers of the United States with the common rod-and-reel fishing method. With a diverse and broad ecosystem in the Mississippi, these fish species are known to grow to large sizes, and anglers are always ready to reel them in, breaking several species records in the process. Given the blue catfish’s immense size and strength, reeling a ‘big one’ in is always a prized achievement. 

The Rod and Reel Record is reserved for the States’ gigantic discoveries. The International Game Fish Association keeps records of the largest fish caught of particular species and the largest fish caught on different strengths of line. The record for the largest catfish caught on a line was set by William McFinley in 1996. He caught a 111-pound catfish on a 30-pound line in Wheeler Reservoir, Alabama on July 5th, 1996.

Meet the Previous Giant Mississippi River Catfish Record Holders

The past three catfish size records were made in the same part of the Mississippi River, close to Natchez, including the recent record holder. According to The Natchez Democrat, the previous Mississippi rod and reel record holder was a 95-pound catfish caught by 10 years old Dakota Hinson. The McLaurin Elementary third-grader set the state record for blue catfish in 2009.

The previous record before 2009 was held by Freddie Parker and Brad Smith in 1997. The duo reeled in a large catfish weighing 101 pounds (45.81 kilograms) from the Mississippi River. 

The New Record Holding Giant Mississippi River Catch

blue catfish vs channel catfish
A 131-pound blue catfish was caught on April 7, 2022, setting the new state record for the biggest catfish catch.

©M Huston/Shutterstock.com

On April 7, 2022, a new record-holding Mississippi River catfish was reeled out of the river. According to CBS News, this enormous Mississippi River catfish turned out to be a blue catfish. The 131-pound (59.42 kilograms) catfish took angler Eugene Cronley forty minutes to reel in.

The Brandon angler used a rod and skipjack herring bait to catch the fish. The Clarion Ledger gave an extensive account of the angler’s experience after he had a chat with them.

“We catch a lot of 50-pounders down there, and I knew he was bigger than that. We didn’t know until we pulled him up. We knew then we had a monster,” he told them about the 56.6 inches (1.44 meters) long catch.

The record holder claimed that the catfish had weighed even heavier before it was measured with a standard scale three days later. It was then certified by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. The Mississippi River record holder was about 10 pounds (4.54 kilograms) shy of the world-record catch for the blue catfish. The world record was set in 2011 when a 143-pounds (64.86 kilograms) catfish was reeled in from Kerr Lake in Virginia by Richard Nicolas Anderson. 

Where Else In the United States Can the Blue Catfish Be Found?

Blue catfish are commonly found in the Mississippi River drainage. Due to their adaptive nature, they can also be found natively in other locations across the United States, such as the Ohio, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee Rivers. They have also been introduced into other rivers and lakes across the United States and have thrived. Some locations include Lake Moultrie in South Carolina, Lake Springfield in Illinois, and the James River in Virginia.

Flathead catfish
Giant catfish can be found in Mississippi River drainage.

©M. Huston/Shutterstock.com

What Other Giant Fishes Dwell In the Mississippi River?

The blue catfish might be the biggest catfish species in North America, but it is not the biggest fish in the Mississippi. The gulf sturgeon and alligator gar are larger habitants of the Old Man River. Gulf sturgeon are the largest fish species in the Mississippi and can typically grow to 108 inches (2.74 meters) long. According to NOAA Fisheries, they have been known to weigh over 300 pounds (136.08 kilograms).

Alligator gars usually measure about 6 feet (1.8 meters) long and weigh more than 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms). The species’ largest recorded catch weighed 327 pounds (148.32 kilograms). These alligator lookalikes can live for more than 50 years and are suspected to grow to unusual sizes the older they age. Another notable mention is the American paddlefish or Mississippi paddlefish, which can grow over 150 pounds

The Largest Catfish Catch in the World

Mekong Giant Catfish in Blue Water
The Mekong Giant Catfish is the largest catfish species in the world.

©Bill Roque/Shutterstock.com

The largest catfish species in the world is the Mekong Giant Catfish, and this large species is also the largest purely freshwater fish in the world. A specimen was documented to be 10 feet (3.05 meters) long and about 646 pounds (293.02 kilograms).

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The Featured Image

Blue catfish
Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)
© Billy Ogle/Flickr – License / Original

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