With less than a month left in 2023, West Virginia angler Michael John Drake was able to keep the annual record-breaking streak alive in his home state. On Dec. 8, Drake caught a 69.45-pound blue catfish that broke the state record. His catch marks the fourth consecutive year the record has been broken, according to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.
Drake, who lives in St. Albans, caught the big blue on a piece of cut shad. He was fishing from his boat on the Ohio River near Gallipollis, in a spot known as the R.C. Boyd Pool. Other details behind the record-breaking catch are sparse, and Drake did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The WVDNR explained in a news release that Drake released the fish after it was verified and measured by the agency’s hatchery manager, Ryan Bosserman. Unlike some other states, West Virginia’s fishing records book contains both length- and weight-based records for blue catfish. (Released fish are eligible for either category as long as they’re weighed on a certified scale and checked out by a DNR fisheries biologist beforehand.) And up until Drake’s catch earlier this month, both records belonged to Steven Price, who pulled a 50.7-inch, 67.22-pound blue catfish from the Kanawha River on May 25, 2022.
According to Bosserman’s measurements, Drake’s catfish measured 50.51 inches long and weighed 69.45 pounds — which is more than two pounds heavier than Price’s fish but just a hair shorter. So, while Drake’s fish sets a new weight record, Price’s 50.7-inch Kanawha River fish will keep its place as the longest blue cat in the state’s record book. As for the recent, four-year hot streak, it’s not immediately clear why so many record blue cats have been caught since 2020. The fish are native to the Ohio River watershed, which includes the Kanawha.
Read Next: How to Catch Catfish in Winter
While a lot of anglers assume that the only records broken during the wintertime are caught through the ice, the colder months can be a great time to chase giant blue catfish on big, open-water rivers. As OL’s Fishing Editor Joe Cermele pointed out in a recent column, colder water temps can actually make trophy blues more predictable as they gravitate to certain areas and continue to feed heavily through the winter. Once you dial in these spots, the next record-breaking catfish could be just one cast away.