West Virginia’s Kanawha River system is putting out some seriously big fish these days, including four state records over the past two years. In the past two months alone, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources has confirmed not one, but two, state-record blue catfish pulled from the same river.
Record Blue Cats Caught Back-to-Back
Last month, Cody Carver caught a giant blue catfish while fishing from a boat in the Kanawha. Carver hooked and landed the bruiser in the well-known Marmet Pool using cut shad for bait. The 61.28-pound fish was heavy enough to eclipse the previous state record of 59.74 pounds that angler Mark Blauvelt caught from the Ohio River in May 2016.
The West Virginia DNR recognizes both length and weight records for all species, and Carver’s 45.51-inch blue cat wasn’t long enough to beat out Justin Goode’s 50.15-inch catfish. But neither record would stand for much longer.
Because earlier this week, angler Steven Price shattered both state records with a 50.7-inch, 67.22-pound blue cat that he caught from the Kanawha River.
Price told Field and Stream that he caught the big blue while out solo with his Labrador retriever on May 25. It was just “one of those days everybody dreams of,” he said. He broke off the first big fish that he hooked, but within minutes of losing that monster, he had a 56-pound blue cat in the boat—his personal best.
After a quick photo, Price explained, he released the fish and called up one of his buddies. Before he could talk for long, though, he was hooked up again.
“I pick it up, and I’m instantly fighting it,” Price said. “It’s another big one. Now, this doesn’t even seem real anymore.”
Things got real in a hurry, though, as Price had eight other lines in the water at the time and nobody around to help him. And when it came time to land the fish, he saw that his net was disassembled. He struggled with the handle for a minute before getting the big blue’s head in the net, and then he wrestled the catfish over the side and onto the deck of his boat.
Now realizing that he had a real monster on his hands, Price kept the fish alive and in the water until WVDNR fisheries biologist Ryan Bosserman arrived. Bosserman confirmed the fish’s weight and length, and certified the 67.22-pound, 50.7-inch blue catfish as the new state-record in both categories. The record fish was then released back into the river.
“My gut tells me that this record is probably gonna hold for a while,” Price told Field and Stream. “But if it got broke today, I’d congratulate the guy. I’d be happy for him because it just shows that our catfish are getting big. They’re growing.”
Little Kanawha Gives up a Record Muskie
But catfish aren’t the only species in the Kanawha River system reaching record size these days.
In March, roughly three weeks before Carver caught his state-record blue cat, Luke King was casting a hard-plastic glide bait on the Little Kanawha River near his home when he suddenly felt weight on the line.
“She stayed deep, kind of bull-dogging,” King told Outdoor Life, adding that the 44-degree water temperature might have had something to do with the sluggish fight.
After landing the fish from the bank, King reached out to the DNR, and fisheries biologist Aaron Yeager arrived on the scene to measure the huge muskie. They taped the fish at just over 55-inches long with a 27-inch girth. Then they put the fish in a specialized tank and trucked it to a certified scale in Gassaway, where it weighed 51 pounds. With those measurements, the muskie beat both the length and weight records for the species in West Virginia’s state-record book.
“The fish was in great shape in the oxygenated tank that Yeager had, and it was released unharmed back into the river,” King said.
Freshwater Drum Record Falls After 31 Years
Although the species might not be as sought-after as a monster muskie or a 60-plus-pound blue cat, the state-record freshwater drum that John Gibson caught from the Kanawha last April was an impressive catch nevertheless. It broke a state record that stood for 31 years and is further evidence of the river’s status as a diverse trophy fishery.
Gibson was participating in a catfish tournament on the river when the drum “hit like a Mack Truck”, as he explained to the local news.
“Just about pulled my rod out of the rod holder,” he said. “Once I got the rod in my hands, I told my fishing partner Terry Legg, ‘Man, this is a big one.’ At that time I still though it was a catfish. But when I saw it, I immediately asked what the state record was.”
A biologist with the DNR met up with the anglers 30 minutes later. After certifying the 27.88-pound, 35.59-inch drum as a new state record, Gibson released the fish back into the river.
And who knows? Maybe the fish will grow even bigger and another angler will catch it, continuing the record-breaking streak that’s currently underway on West Virginia’s Kanawha River.