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Angler breaks his own state record for channel catfish

MOOREFIELD, W.Va. — There are only a handful of West Virginia fishermen who have caught a state record fish. However, Allen Burkett of Moorefield, W.Va. has the distinction of catching two records.

A channel catfish caught in June 2022 by Burkett at South Mill Creek Lake established a new record for both weight and length for the channel catfish. On July 20, 2023, he caught another channel catfish, again at South Mill Creek, which broke his own record for weight.

“I was hoping to do that, but I didn’t figure I would. I never figured there’d be another one in there that was bigger,” he said in an interview for West Virginia Outdoors.

Listen to “Allen Burkett –record catfish 2” on Spreaker.
This year’s fish weighed 37.50 pounds which beat last year’s record catch for weight by just over a half pound. The 2022 fish remained the record for length at 40.59 inches. Prior to Burkett’s 2022 catch, the record for both weight and length for a channel catfish in West Virginia had stood for 17 years. Burkett’s record stood for 13 months.

Burkett lived in Virginia when he caught the last record fish and often fished South Mill Creek Lake after work at the Pilgrim’s Pride Plant in Moorefield. He has since moved to West Virginia and this time, he had taken the day off just to go fishing.

“I’d been having a bad week and just decided to take the day off and I pretty much had the whole lake to myself.  I didn’t get any bites until a little after 10:00. I caught a turtle and while I was messing around with him my other pole bent over. When I set the hook it felt like I had the bottom and I thought it was another turtle until the drag took off,” he explained.

The big catfish bit on a piece of bluegill which had been cut in half. Burkett caught the bluegills he was using for bait soon after he arrived. Typically he fishes them alive, but just to shake things up, he cut this one in half and put it in the water along with his other rods baited with chicken livers.

“I never thought he was that big. I knew it was a decent sized fish, but when I got him closer to the bank and when I saw what it was, I got pretty excited,” he laughed.

The fish put up a considerable fight according to Burkett who caught him on the same 17 pound test line he had used in 2022 for the first record fish. However, this time it was on a lighter pole. The fight took about ten minutes to get him to the bank.

After landing the big fish Burkett took it home and dropped it in a swimming pool in hopes of keeping the big cat alive until after it was certified. West Virginia DNR District Fisheries Biologist Brandon Keplinger did the honors.

“He said, ‘Well, guess I’ll see you next July,'” laughed Burkett after the fish was officially certified.

The fish didn’t make it.

“I put the fillet knife to him and got a bunch of meat. We’ll have us a big fish fry out of this one. I never dreamed I’d get one, no less two of them,” he added.

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