Tennessee Angler Won’t Let Cancer Stop Her from Catching Giant Catfish

Paula Curtis Smith recently landed a huge 69-pound catfish on the Tennessee River
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Paula Curtis Smith with a stud blue catfish. Paula Curtis Smith

Paula Curtis Smith has been catching giant blue catfish for years, and she’s not letting a recent cancer diagnosis slow her down. On April 3, she landed a 69-pound blue catfish (one of her biggest ever) from the Tennessee River, according to the Tennessean newspaper. Smith is from Waverly, Tennessee, and was fishing in Humphries County west of Nashville when she hooked the big cat. The fight and the landing were recorded on video and posted to Facebook.

Smith hooked the catfish in 45 feet of water using a cut skipjack herring bait. In the video she is seen fighting the fish deep in the middle of the Tennessee River, using stout catfish tackle.

At one point she has to maneuver her rod with the hooked catfish around another rod in a stern holder, and she jokingly says that maybe the fish is “just a 5-pounder.” But it’s obvious that she’s hooked into a giant. It takes Smith about 10 minutes to beat it.

Eventually, she works the fish to the surface where it slashes and splashes. There’s immediate urgency from her fishing companion as he locates a landing net and Smith struggles to lead the catfish into the hoop of mesh.

She tries to lift the net, but it’s too heavy, and for a moment the fish almost pulls the net back into the river. Smith’s companion grabs the net and hauls the fish aboard their boat, showing the cat’s enormous size and stomach.

As Smith works to unhook the fish, she says: “You have made my day – don’t bite me.”

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She grabs the cat with both hands in its mouth, and struggles to lift it, getting its head and most of the body up for a final look before the video ends.

After the blue was weighed, it was released alive back into the river. While the 69-pounder is a giant for anyone, anywhere, Smith has caught bigger catfish, including a 70-pounder last May, and an 88-pounder four years ago. Her goal is to catch a 100-pound catfish. Smith started fishing again recently while undergoing treatment following her diagnosis in October, according to the Tennessean.

“No one should ever give up regardless of what they are facing,” Smith told the Tennessean.