Alabama Blue Catfish State Record Shattered with 120 Pound Beast


Also, if you’re wondering, the fish weighed in at 120 pounds, 5 ounces. It was 4 feet, 11 1/4 inches long and its girth was 3 feet and 3 inches.

Not long after dark on the night of March 9, 2012, John Nichols caught a record-breaking 120 pound blue catfish in the Holt Reservoir in Alabama. In an interview with, he said, “I was looking [for] eight or ten this size to eat,” as he held his hands about 18 inches apart. Instead, he managed to reel in a single fish that will likely keep him fed for quite some time.

Nichols had help from his friend Robbie Tierce who helped net the fish. He caught it using a chicken gizzard as bait on a 40 pound fishing line.

Michael Holley, the district fisheries biologist in Eastaboga, said that catfish in that size range are extremely uncommon. Holley estimates that only about three percent of the total catfish population reach a weight in the range of 50 to 100 pounds.

Update added 4-13-2012: The age of the fish likely will not be determined because in order to do so, biologists must cut off part of its head to gain access to its otolith, or ear bone. Normally this is a standard procedure, but Bass Pro Shops has indicated interest in making a fiberglass replica of the fish and therefore it will not be aged, according to Jay Haffner, fisheries biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. A colleague of Haffner’s estimates the fish to be between 10 and 20 years old. Click here to read David Rainer’s in-depth story of the catch.

Original press release issued by Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on April 10th, 2012:

John Nichols shattered the Alabama blue catfish record with a 120-pound, 5-ounce fish. Nichols, who lives in Tuscaloosa, caught the behemoth from Holt Reservoir on March 9, 2012. He used a chicken gizzard on a large circle hook and managed to land the beast using 40-pound fishing line.

Jay Haffner, District Three Fisheries Supervisor for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF), certified the new record on Saturday March 10, 2012. The previous blue catfish record of 111 pounds was caught by William P. McKinley from Wheeler Reservoir in 1996. At that time, McKinley’s blue catfish was a world record. The current world record for blue catfish is 143 pounds caught from Buggs Island Lake, Va.

Procedures for certifying a state record include weighing the fish on certified scales with witnesses and having the species confirmed by a WFF or certified fisheries biologist. The fish must be caught legally, including the possession of a valid fishing license, if required. Alabama rules state that if a fish weighs less than 25 pounds, the new record must be two ounces more than the existing record. For fish weighing more than 25 pounds, the difference must be at least one-half of a percent more than the existing record. Otherwise, the records tie. The complete rules and applications are available from WFF offices or

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