Angler hooks 82-pound catfish in Chowan River

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Though Danny Taylor didn't need a bigger boat to net this catfish, he did break his net trying to haul it in.

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The Chowan Herald

Thursday, July 19, 2018

CHOWAN — Forget the dolphins and talk of sharks in local waters.

Danny Taylor caught a gigantic catfish that may be the biggest one ever caught in the Chowan River.

Fishermen from Pembroke Creek to Rocky Hock and beyond competed in the Chowan Catfish Challenge Tournament held out of Tunis Landing on Sunday in Winton.

Rather than fishing in safe shoreline coves, Taylor took his rod and reel and cast his line out into the deep waters of the Chowan River. His bait of choice was cut brim and white perch.

A half-hour after leaving the dock, Taylor's line began to tug. He did not need a bigger boat, but his net was not strong enough to contain the blue catfish, the largest species of catfish in North America.

The fish weighed 82.2 lbs and was more than 56 inches long with a girth of 34 inches.

“I actually tried to net the fish, but my net wasn't big enough,” Taylor said. “I broke my net, but I was able to get one hand in her mouth and then I grabbed it with the other hand and just pulled her in the boat on top of myself.”

Though there was a huge catfish flopping around in the boat, Taylor was not frightened.

“No, I wasn't scared,” he said, “but I was scared of losing her. That's the biggest fish I've ever landed.”

Taylor of Gates County is not a professional fisherman, though he does spend a lot of time on the water.

“I've been fishing pretty much my whole life,” said Taylor, 47, who works at Ashton Lewis Lumber of Gatesville.

Blue catfish can weigh more than 130 pounds, grow to be nearly five feet long and live more than 20 years. They are becoming more common in local waters.

“Blue catfish didn’t start moving into the Chowan River until about 23 years ago,” said Steve Grzanka, who manages the Northeastern NC Anglers Club. “I’ve seen bigger ones but never got them to the boat … yet. That fish during the winter weighs 100 pounds, if I had to guess.”

Tourney officials have reached out to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to see if the fish set a record for the biggest catfish caught in the Chowan River.

“I couldn’t believe how big it was,” said John Kellett, tournament director and owner of Tunis Landing. “I weighed an 81 pound fish back in March for a guy, so we’ve had some big catfish weighed at Tunis, but this one was longer than any catfish I’ve ever seen. If it wasn’t so skinny it would have been a 100-pound fish.”

So what does one do after catching a fish that size? After a bit of skilled taxidermy, mount it on the wall? Fish fry? Nope. Because this is a trophy fish, it gets to swim another day.

“There's no need in killing these trophy fish,” Taylor said.

After weighing the fish and posing for a photo, Taylor's catfish went back in the water.

But photo and bragging rights aside, Taylor did not go home empty handed. He won $200. Not bad for less than 30 minutes worth of work on the water doing what he loves to do.

“I just love to fish. You never know what's going to be on the end of the line,” he said.