Micka and Amy Burkhart were just hoping to enjoy a rare day on the water fishing together when things took an unexpected turn. It ended with Micka catching a 118.7-pound blue catfish that if certified, looks like it will become the new Tennessee state record. The massive fish measured 54 inches long and had an incredibly fat 41-inch girth.
According to News Channel 9, Burkhart and his wife were fishing the Cumberland River using a skipjack as bait when he hooked into the massive fish on a Mad Katz rod rigged with an 8/0 Gamakatsu hook. Burkhart was only using 30-pound Berkley Trilene on the setup. When the big fish was first hooked, Burkhart told the news station he had no idea how large the fish was.
"At first it just kind of came in easily, swimming towards me a little bit. At that point I don't believe the fish even realized it was hooked," Burkhart said.
It was only after he got it close to the boat and saw the size that he realized the magnitude of what was on the other end of the line. This was also around the time the fish finally realized what was going on. Burkhart said the fish spooked and ran, nearly spooling the reel in the process. The couple were forced to follow the fish as it took off downstream. The entire fight took about 45 minutes before the massive fish finally tired out and they could net it. It took a combined effort by Micka and Amy to get it onboard.
After landing the blue cat, Micka called a buddy in for assistance, Bryan Ladd, who just happened to be fishing nearby. They weighed the fish on an uncertified scale and quickly realized they had a possible state record on their hands. But the clock was ticking, because Burkhart wanted to release the monster back into the river.
"I almost didn't get him certified because I didn't want that fish to die," Burkhart told the news station. "I wanted to do everything in our power to release it."
The anglers put the fish in a livewell and then started scrambling to find a set of certified scales that were available on a weekend. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Officer Dalton Gooch responded to the scene and went hunting for a set of scales nearby. He eventually found one at a wild game processing facility where the 118.7-pound weight was officially recorded in front of several witnesses, including Officer Gooch. It took approximately four hours before the scales were found, so it is possible the fish lost a little weight from the stress. However, that weight was 6.7 pounds more than the previous record of 112 pounds, which was caught by Robert Lewis back in 1998 from the same river.
The big fish Burkhart caught hasn't been officially certified as the record yet; the application for the record must be reviewed by TWRA officials first.
Burkhart then took the fish back to the river and released it. The group waited with the fish for nearly 30 minutes before it got its energy back and swam away.
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