Bowfishermen Arrow Pair of Virginia State-Record Catfish Within a Week

by Taylor Cunningham
Bloomberg Creative Photos

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources on Nov. 10 that there is a new bowfishing record in the books for blue and flathead catfish.

Two different anglers made the catches within one week of each other. The flathead came out of Belmont Bay on Oct. 16 and the blue was caught in the Rappahannock River on October 20

Richard Hayden Jr., a Bracey, Virginia resident, holds the record for the archery category for flathead catfish with a 48-pound fish. His catch measured 3 feet, 11 inches, and had a girth of 28.5 inches. The VDWR certified his achievement on Oct. 28. Bracey’s fish overtook a record that David Raine set in 2020 by about two pounds.

The blue catfish record is now held by Josh Bailey of Waldorf, Maryland. Bailey’s prize also measured 3 feet 11 inches. But it had a much larger girth of 35-inch. It weighed an impressive 69 pounds. His fish beat a record set by Jordan Emmel who cause a 66.5-pounder earlier this year.

Interestingly, blue catfish are invasive to the Rappahannock River and the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. People introduced them into rivers in the area decades ago thinking the fish wouldn’t migrate.

Flatheads also aren’t native to the state. Like their counterparts, anglers put them in rivers in hopes of adding bulk to recreational fishing. In the current day, the species is more than plentiful in Virginia’s New, Staunton, and James Rivers. And people can also find them in Flannigan, Smith, and Claytor Lakes.

Virginia Catfish Records Follow the States First-Even Saugeye Certification

In late September, Virginia also registered its first-ever saugeye record. Michael Miller, a Nathalie, Virginia native, landed the fish using a spinning tackle and crankbait. The DWR verified that it measured 26 1/4in with a girth of 14in.

Once the state recorded the feat, the fish became the first entry since the state added the species to the record and trophy fish program in 2020.

The saugeye, which is technically a member of the perch family, is a hybrid created with a female walleye and a male sauger. The state began stocking its waterways with these fish in 2013. Officials have been working hard to establish saugeyes, and they now have a strong population in several locations.

The fish are most plentiful in Lake Chesdin, Lake Anna, Lake Orange, Lake Brittle, Burke Lake, and Little Creek Reservoir. They’re also easy to catch in the Appomattox and Staunton rivers.