Tournament angler catches record catfish

GALLOPOLIS, Oh. — Since the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources began reintroduction of blue catfish into the waters of the Ohio and Kanawha River a few years ago, the record for the blue catfish has been broken several times.

Austin Hoffman caught a record blue in 2014, but didn’t last two years as an Ohio fishermen broke it last month with a catch on the Ohio River during a catfish tournament.

Mark Blauvelt of Dayton, OH shows off the new W.Va. record blue catfish, which he released back into the Ohio River after it was certified

Mark Blauvelt of Dayton, Ohio landed the massive cat near a bend in the river while fishing in a Cabela’s sponsored catfish tournament being run out of Gallopolis, Ohio on May 14. During an appearance on Northside Automotive West Virginia Outdoors, Blauvelt said he hooked the fish as he and his partner, Ryan Lawrence, were using a technique called “controlled drifting” in the current.

“In the current you point the front of the boat upriver and put the trolling motor on low speed to cut your speed in half of the current,” said Blauvelt. “By doing that we were suspending baits a couple feet off the bottom as the boat is slowly drifting down. That lets the scent get ahead of us and the fish can find it an zero in on it.”

Using a piece of cut shad for bait, Blauvelt said they were approaching a bend in the river where they the river bottom began a slant and the depth was breaking off sharply. The fish struck in about 20 feet of water and the fight was on.

“The longer I fight it, the bigger it’s getting because I can’t move it off the bottom,” he said. “He was staying on the bottom and he was incredibly strong. Finally he came right up along the boat real quick and went back down before we could net him.”

Having laid eyes on the big catfish, Blauvelt knew what he had and became extraordinarily nervous.

“At this point, I’m not thinking about a record because I’m in a tournament,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose that one because he’s a money fish.”

After a half hour or so, and with help from his partner, they were able to lug the beast into the boat. Then was when they started to consider it may be a much bigger fish than anyone could have dreamed of catching in a tournament. They had a 50 pound scale in the boat, and it bottomed out the scale.

“It took both of us to pull him over the side of the boat and we just looked at each other going , ‘Holy Cow!’ I’d never caught a blue that big,” said Blauvelt. “We knew the record was 50 and change and maybe it would be a record.”

Only a mile or so from the ramp, they called Tournament Director Jeremy Coe with Cabela’s to tell him about the catch. Blauvelt feared for the fish’s safety because it was too big for his livewell. When they told Coe about the catch, he called the DNR.

Blauvelt weighed in the fish later in the day at the end of the tournament and on the tournament scales it registered at just over 60 pounds. While waiting for a DNR representative to come to the ramp, they put the fish into a friend’s boat who had a much larger livewell. About an hour later, a fish biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources arrived and using a certified scale weighed the fish at 59.74 pounds. It broke the old record for weight by more than seven pounds. Hoffman’s fish however still stood as the record for length.

“When they (DNR) weighed it that was an hour later, but that fish could have stressed some of that out, but whatever,” he said. “Once they weighed it and took all the measurements I released it back into the river. Once it hit the water it splashed its tail and took off. It was in great shape.”

Blauvelt said having the record was a very nice honor, but knew it was unlikely to stand for very long because of the conditions on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers.

“That’s protected water and there are some big fish in there,” he said.

Earlier this year, the West Virginia DNR placed limits on keeping large numbers of trophy catfish from the river and the West Virginia Legislature followed up with even stricter regulations on removing large numbers of catfish. Those were regulations catfish anglers had asked for. As the blues continue to grow, chances are Blauvelt’s name won’t last in the West Virginia record books for very long.

Amazingly, although the catfish was the big fish of the tournament, it wasn’t enough to help Blauvelt and Lawrence win, they took second place.

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