The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) announced on Wednesday that a new state record blue catfish was caught by Austin Hoffman from the Ohio River. The massive catfish took both the weight and length record when it was measured at 52.95 pounds and 47.75 inches. Hoffman, a Marshall University student studying biology, told MetroNews that he was as surprised as everyone else by the record catch.

“I was actually going out to test out a new drift rod holder set up I put in my boat,” said Hoffman. “I took my girlfriend with me and didn’t have any intention of catching anything. I didn’t even bring a net.”

Hoffman hooked the large catfish on Saturday and was able to take it out of the water after a short, 15-minute fight. His next problem was keeping the fish alive through the certification process. The livewell of the angler’s boat was much too small to hold the catfish, but Hoffman was able to reach a DNR biologist to confirm the record.

Blue catfish are a relative newcomer to West Virginia, although the species are originally native to the Ohio and Kanawha rivers. The fish disappeared from the state over the last half century due to poor water quality, habitat loss, and man-made barriers. It was only within the last five years that the DNR was able to re-establish the catfish in the state. In 2012, angler Mark Foster captured the previous state record with a 44.5-pound catfish, also from the Ohio River. The blue catfish is the largest freshwater catfish in North America and can reach well over 50 pounds.

According to the International Game Fish Association, the current world record stands at 143 pounds and was taken from Virginia’s Kerr Lake.

Hoffman’s record specimen was released safely back into the water, although catfish enthusiasts may not want to rush to the Ohio River just yet. The angler said the catfish was released into a new home in the Kanawha.

Image courtesy West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

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