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This Man’s Pending State-Record Blue Catfish Could Be the Same Record Fish He Caught Last Year

"I was shaking, I was nervous—very few people get to ever catch a record fish, much less break a state record twice”
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The pending state-record blue catfish for Tennessee, on a table.

Burkhart's pending state-record blue catfish, caught June 28, 2023. Micka Burkhart, via Facebook

Lightning can strike twice, or at least it can when Tennessee catfish angler Micka Burkhart is on the water. On Wednesday Burkhart caught and released a likely new state-record blue catfish that weighed in at 122.3 pounds, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Burkhart is the same fisherman who caught and released the current 118-pound state-record blue catfish last year.

TWRA reports that Burkhart’s most recent monster cat was caught at noon from the Stewart County area of the Cumberland River.

Burkhart began fishing at 8 a.m. on June 28 and went to his favorite catfish spot on the Cumberland River. He caught a pair of big blues weighing 69 and 72 pounds that morning and was fishing a white bass head bait under a homemade planer board when the 122-pounder slammed the bait hard.

“It didn’t spool me, but it pulled lots of drag,” he told Chattanooga TV. Burkahart was fishing a revolving-spool Penn Squall reel with 40-pound test and a 60-pound leader. “Just like last time [118-pounder in September], I probably fought it for at least 45 or 50 minutes. I got the fish to the boat at least six times and then it would take off for the bottom again.

“When I saw the fish the first time there was no doubt he was as big, or bigger, than the other [record] fish. I was shaking, I was nervous—very few people get to ever catch a record fish, much less break a state record twice.”

The giant catfish in the boat's livewell.
The netted fish; a giant in the livewell. Micka Burkhart, via Facebook

Because Burkhart was fishing alone, he had great difficulty netting the catfish and hefting it into his boat’s live well, oversized though it is. Once he did, however, he knew right where to head to have the fish weighed and certified, just like he did with his 118-pounder in September.

“I had everyone’s phone number saved, so this time I knew exactly what to do,” he said.

Burkhart told Chattanooga TV-9 that he caught his 122-pound catfish within 100 yards of where he released his current 118-pound record blue catfish into the Cumberland River just nine months ago. He went to Who Dat Processing in the town Tennessee Ridge where they had a certified sale. TWRA biologist Mike Clark was waiting to witness the weighing, measuring, and species certification.

“It’s definitely a possibility it’s the same fish,” Burkhart said. “Of course, I can’t say for sure, but if it is the same fish, it’s even more exciting because it proves more than ever that CPR [catch, photograph, release] works.”

TN record blue cat 1
Angler Micka Burkhart stands next to the pending Tennessee state-record blue cat, which was released alive after it was weighed on a certified scale. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

The 122.3-pound fish was officially weighed in front of witnesses, and it measured 57.5 inches long, with a girth of 42.25 inches. Then Burkhart loaded his heavyweight catfish back into his boat live well, returned to the Cumberland River and released the fish—perhaps to be caught months from now, when the giant blue cat is even larger for a three-peat state record catch.

Before Burkhart set a new blue cat record in September 2022, Tennessee’s state-record was in the books for 25 years.