Catching a state record blue catfish had been a longtime goal for North Carolina angler Zakk Royce, but during a trip out to Lake Gaston last month, Royce caught not only one, but two record blues.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Royce told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. “It has always been my goal to break the state record for blue catfish, but to reach that goal and then break my own record a day later….wow, that’s all I can say.”
The 25-year-old fishing guide from Murfreesboro caught a 91-pound blue catfish with cut shad bait on December 20. Instantly recognizing the massive fish as a potential state record, Royce enlisted the help of a friend who just happened to be nearby, Michael Bracy, to load the fish on his boat. Hoisting the heavy catfish was an even tougher fight than the 20-minute battle to bring the fish alongside his boat, but when it was on board, Royce remembered that it was Sunday. That meant that getting a biologist from the North Carolina Wildlife Commission to come certify the fish would have to wait.
“I had to babysit the fish all night long with the help of my dad,” Royce told North Carolina Sportsman.“We took turns every hour pumping freshwater in the livewell. In the morning, we took it to the Lake Gaston Ace Hardware and had it weighed and certified by a biologist.”
After releasing the fish, Royce and his father decided to celebrate by doing some more fishing. As luck would have it, the angler caught an even larger catfish not much later, and he drove back to the hardware store. Understandably, the biologist could not believe Royce’s good luck. After some clarification and insisting that he truly had just broken his newly-minted state record, the biologist came back and certified another fish for Royce.
The two fish made Royce an instant legend at the Blues Brothers Catfish Guide Service, where he works.
“Alright so our very own Zakk Royce caught a North Carolina blue cat record at 91 pounds yesterday. Got it certified, released it and decided to fish some more. 30 mins later broke the record again with this 105 pound blue! Congrats again Zakk Royce!” the guide service wrote on Facebook.
Royce says that with North Carolina’s abundant catfish population, it may not be long before his record is broken. He is hoping that when that happens, it is one of his clients who gets the bite.