North Carolina Angler Breaks 50-Year-Old Catfish Record, Draws Criticism

by Chris Haney

A 50-year-old state catfish record has been broken by a North Carolina fisherman, but his catch has come under scrutiny since its announcement.

A North Carolina angler named John Stone caught a 23-pound, 5-ounce channel catfish in September. The catch broke a state channel catfish record by just one ounce. However, controversy has followed the announcement of the newly set catfish record.

Stone, an at-large state Wildlife Commissioner, caught the fish at a private pond in Moore County. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recently approved his application. On Sunday, the NCWRC announced on Facebook that Stone’s catch had broken the previous record. Yet many complained that the record should not stand.

Numerous comments under the NCWRC’s post disagreed with Stone’s catch breaking the 50-year record. Many people complained that Stone caught the catfish in a private pond, not a public one. The resounding criticisms seemed to all agree that all record fish should be caught in public locations. Some even took it a step further and called Stone a cheater. Regardless of some people’s opinions, North Carolina recognizes record catches from private waters as well. As long as no other rules or laws are broken, the private pond catch stands.

In addition, the WRC also said that Stone was the third fisherman to set a state catfish record last year.

Joey Baird caught a record 121-pound, 9-ounce blue catfish on July 5, 2020 at Lake Gaston. Only two weeks later on July 20, Tyler Barnes reeled in a record 78-pound, 14-ounce flathead catfish on the Neuse River. Stone’s September catch while using cut bait earned him the record for big channel catfish, which broke E.J. Bowen’s record held since 1970. Bowen set the record while fishing with his 5-year-old son at City Lake.

Maryland Angler Breaks Another Catfish Record

Earlier this month, angler Joshua Dixon of Elkton, became Maryland’s first record holder for flathead catfish.

Dixon planned on catching walleye that day, but the Susquehanna River offered up flathead catfish instead. In fact, the fisherman didn’t even realize he had caught a fish at first. Since there was zero movement on his line, Dixon thought he got stuck on a tree.

“It was really weird because I thought I snagged a tree,” Dixon said, according to a USA Today report. “It didn’t feel like a fish, but after a while it was going crazy.”

The record-breaking catfish that Dixon reeled in measured 50 inches and weighed 57 pounds. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources set 40 pounds as the minimum weight to qualify for a record. Dixon’s catch not only qualified for the vacant record holder’s spot in Maryland’s invasive species category but crushed it by 17 pounds.