Angler snags record catfish in the James By Jim Brewer Daily Progress correspondent Thursday, July 20, 2006 Archie Gold July 15-16/2006 New Virginia State Record 95.7 pounds-54 ½-inches long-38-½ inches in girth James River Thermometers are pushing triple digits. Bass are so deep you need a depth charge to get their attention. Trout streams are at a trickle and smallmouth are running hot and cold. About the only fish that turns on when the heat turns up are catfish. And boy, did a big one ever turn up in the lower James River. On July 15-16, Archie Gold, a veteran catfisherman, was fishing in the James River Catfishing Club Tournament out of Hopewell Marina in a late-evening affair that began on Saturday night and ended on Sunday morning. Using a piece of cut shad, Gold hooked up with a fish that will likely be certified as a new Virginia state record blue catfish. The big-un weighed in at 95.7 pounds. It was 54 ½-inches long and 38-½ inches in girth. The current state record weighed 92.4 pounds and was caught at Buggs Island Lake in June 2004. Other than landing the monster, the biggest problem facing the Jetersville angler was how to keep the thing alive until an unfortunate Game Department official could be roused from his bed to come down and take a look. After all, it was 1 in the morning when the catfish was lifted up on the scales. Fellow anglers helped out by offering a larger livewell and everyone pitched in to keep fresh water circulating. Another problem surfaced when the anglers realized the scales they were using were not certified. Green Top Sporting Goods in Ashland allowed the club to borrow their official scales at 7:30 on Sunday morning. Around 9:30, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Marine Biologist Ron Southwick arrived on the scene to inspect the fish. The official weight was listed at 95.7 pounds, pending final certification. After all the hoopla, the big catfish was returned to the James River and was released alive. Another smallmouth or two for dinner and the big fella might tip the scales at 100 pounds for the next angler. One reason people have been catching so many trophy catfish throughout the state is because of the spirit of catch-and-release displayed among the serious catfishermen. These fellows know that the big ones aren’t much good to eat - loaded with fat and who knows what all from the James River, and who would ever want a 90 pound catfish mounted on a rec room wall? Catfish are many things, but good looking isn’t one of them. There are, no doubt, catfish larger than 100 pounds in Virginia waters, with the best chances coming from the James, the Rappahannock, the Potomac and Buggs Island Lake. All these waters have healthy shad populations, the basic forage for big catfish. Perhaps the favored baits among hardcore “catmeisters” are live bluegills and cut shad. There is an old wives’ tale that catfish like rotten, stinking bait, but that’s not true. A catfish might eat foul-smelling bait, but they prefer fresh bait, 10 to one. Just for the record, Archie Gold won the tournament that night. He picked up a $110 for first place. That’s about a dollar a pound for his efforts. Congratulations are certainly in order to Gold and his fellow anglers for keeping the big fish alive and releasing it safely back into the James River.
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