Ever catch a state record fish? How about doing it twice in two days?
North Carolina angler Zakk Royce accomplished a legendary feat while catfishing on Lake Gaston in North Carolina this past Sunday and Monday. Not only did he break the existing blue catfish record of 89 pounds by hooking a 91-pounder on Sunday, but after he got the cat certified and released it alive back into the waters, he turned around Monday and shattered his less-than-one-day-old state mark by hauling in a 105-pound blue catfish!
“I was fishing alone with the 91-pounder,” says Royce. “I dropped a chunk of bluegill on a Carolina rig and he hit. I got him to boatside, but couldn’t fit him into the net and control him with the rod at the same time. He pulled off 40 yards of line and I got him back to boatside where I got the tip of his head inside the net and his pectoral fins got stuck in the mesh, but I still couldn’t lift him.” Royce then called his buddy Mike on a nearby kayak 2 miles away who paddled over to help him lift the net over the side.
“I always release trophy fish and I was going to make sure this fish swam off at any cost, so being that it was Sunday, the shops were closed to weigh it in so I stayed up all night pumping fresh water into the tank to keep him alive. I finally was able to weigh it in on Monday.”
But that’s not the end of this story. “I went back out to release the fish right where I caught it, and before I left, the biologist who certified it joked I might have to catch a 100-pounder now, so my dad and I figured why not drop a line in and fish.”
Royce and his dad were exhausted from staying up all night to keep his 91-pounder alive, and decided to only fish a short time. The plan was to troll bluegill chunks near the bank then pick up the lines.
“We had one more minute of fishing and then we were done,” says Royce. “That’s when the rod doubled over.”
After a grueling 30-minute give and take battle, Royce finally got the fish to the boat, this time having the luxury of netting assistance from his dad.
But there was a problem:
“I said there’s no way we can fit this fish into this net, it was just too big,” said Royce. “So my dad got the head of the fish inside the net, then we both leaned over and wrapped our arms around its midsection and all lifted together. It was one of those ‘1-2-3- LIFT!’ moments.”
Then things just simply got sitcom-like funny. Royce immediately called the biologist, who was just getting on the road again from weighing in the first blue cat hours before. “I told him, remember that 100-pounder you joked about? Well, we got it. He turned his truck around and met me back at the weigh station where the catfish weighed 105 pounds and measured almost 56 inches long.” The 105-pound blue cat was also released back into Lake Gaston and now stands as the North Carolina state record.
And for Royce? After he released his record fish back into the water he, of course, went back out fishing.