Stefanie Stanley hooked a giant-sized blue catfish at the Catfish Chasers Tournament in Kansas last Saturday, securing her first place on the podium and the biggest catch recorded in any of the state’s lakes. According to Kansas.com, the Olathe resident was fishing in Milford Reservoir when the catfish took her shad bait.
“We knew he was nice, but then he came up and barrel-rolled beside the boat,” Stefanie said. “We were like, ‘Holy cow, this is a whopper.’ It has shoulders on it like a linebacker.”
It weighed in at a little over 82 pounds and needless to say, she won the tournament by a sizable margin.
“These blue catfish are really growing, they’re making a world-class fishery here in Kansas in a lot of our lakes,” said David Studebake, co-owner of the tournament. “It won’t be long before the new state record comes from Milford. It may only be a couple of years.”
Perhaps that new record will come from the same fish. Stanley’s stunning catch was released back into the water after spending some time in a tank while officials weighed it. According to the tournament owners, it is the largest catfish ever caught in Milford Reservoir, and the biggest from any Kansas lake.
Still, it wasn’t entirely unexpected for Stefanie. The Stanleys are known for hauling big fish. Last summer Stephanie’s daughter BayLeigh caught a 70-pound catfish from the Kaw River, which seems small next to her husband’s 102.9-pound catch out of the Missouri River.
“She has the biggest ever from a lake, and he has the biggest from a Kansas river,” said Studebake’s partner Rich Witt. “Those are some nice fish.”
Stefanie’s husband, Robert Stanley, currently holds the state record for the largest blue caught not only in a river, but anywhere in the state.
When FOX4 asked him if he thought his wife was trying to one-up him, Robert replied, “more power to her. I was excited she did it and by herself too.”
Stefanie’s previous personal best was a 48-pounder.
“It’s kind of like giving birth, that feeling you’re just shaking, you’re in awe. It’s an amazing feeling!” Stefanie said. Her team also bagged $2,000 in the tournament.
Part of their success can be attributed to the catch-and-release policies of tournaments like the Catfish Chasers as well as a boom in the species’ population. Although native to Kansas waters, new regulations and abundant food have led to an increase in the blue catfish. They also serve to decrease the number of invasive zebra mussels, which they munch down on with zeal.