St. Albans fisherman knew they’d be biting on a warm December day

APPLE GROVE, W.Va. — Friday’s weather forecast was enough to convince Michael Drake to take a day off from work and head to the Ohio River.

“With a cold front coming in, I thought they might start feeding up,” said Drake who spends a lot of time and effort chasing trophy sized catfish on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers in West Virginia.

He settled on a spot near Gallipolis, OH and anchored up after charting some fish deep on his electronics.

“I was anchored up in about 30 feet of water. I came through and marked a big pile of them on my fish finder. I threw out and in about 15 minutes I hooked up and the rest is history,” he explained in a conversation for West Virginia Outdoors.

He wasn’t kidding, it was an historic catch. He tied into a blue catfish which wound up being the largest one ever caught in West Virginia. Drake, who is from St. Albans, is well versed on the record because he’s been chasing it for quite a while.

“I’ve come very close before and caught some in the 50 pound range,” he explained.

But this one was well over that and was crowding 70 pounds. He got the fish in the boat, put it in the livewell, and made some calls to people he knew at DNR. Soon he had arranged to meet Biologist Ryan Bosserman from the Apple Grove Fish Hatchery on the riverbank. Bosserman showed up with his certified scales and measuring board to make the all important physical weight an length measurements. When he was done, Drake held the weight record, but the length record still stands.

This fish was officially 69.45 pounds which shattered the previous record of 67.22 pounds. He narrowly missed the length record by a couple of tenths of an inch. Drake’s big cat was 50.51 inches, the record still stands at 50.7 inches.

Biologists from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources record the official weight to certify Mike Drake’s blue catfish as the new West Virginia record for weight. PHOTO: Submitted

Drake was glad he didn’t pass up the opportunity. He ended up catching another blue cat which weighed around 22 pounds.

“I was alone. My fishing partner had to work, but I decided to go alone and low and behold it happened,” he laughed.

Soon after Bosserman certified his measurements and more than a few pictures were taken, the giant catfish was gently released back into the water to potentially be caught again. Drake, who is a dedicated catfish angler, said that was of upmost importance in his mind.

“That’s one of the big things to me is the health of the fish. You chase these things all the time and they don’t just grow to that size overnight. So I did my best to take care of it and get somebody here so we could quickly get it back in the water,” he explained.

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