A Florida angler buried the previous blue catfish state record by more than 50 pounds, but it won't be recognized by the record books.
When Joel Singletary, 78, put his boat in the Choctawhatchee River April 11, he had no idea he'd land the biggest blue catfish ever recorded in Florida. That monstrous fish would weigh 121 pounds.
The current Florida state record for blue catfish is documented at 69.5 pounds. Singletary's fish crushed that weight by more than 50 pounds. His catfish, however, won't enter the record book because Singletary caught it on a trotline. In order to be eligible for records, fish must be caught by rod and reel.
Nevertheless, Singletary's fish has caused quite a stir, and proves there are some very big catfish in Florida.
Paxton certified Singletary's fish's weight, and has long suspected that such big fish swim in northwest Florida's waters.
Singletary likely suspects the same thing. He's caught several catfish over 50 pounds, but this one was special.
"It would be a rarity to see a fish like that again," he said. "I couldn't put one bigger than that in the boat. I was shocked. I didn't think I could get him in the boat. The adrenaline took over."
Matt Davis, administrator of North Florida Catfishing Facebook page, said "Oh yeah, I was very impressed. It won't be a record...but that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience holding that in your hands."
He also advocates for the idea that monster cats can be found in northwest Florida.
"They're like freshwater sharks lurking out there," he said. "And we can have lot bigger here in Florida...It's going to be as big as bass fishing. Blue catfish hit like a freight train. The rod will bend over, and you reel hard."
While Florida sport fishermen have been targeting big cats and practicing catch-and-release in the hope of building the fishery, Singletary filleted his giant. He gave chunks of meat to a neighbor and to a group for a fish fry, in addition to keeping a good portion for himself.
"All of it will be enjoyed," he said.
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