Delaware Angler Hooks State Record Blue Catfish From Nanticoke River

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: SimonSkafar

A Delaware angler recently made fishing history. According to reports, the fisherman caught a record-breaking blue catfish at 48 pounds, 2.2 ounces. James Lord reeled in the whopper of a catfish while on the Nanticoke River at approximately 1:30 a.m. on October 8.

“It’s the biggest catfish I’ve ever laid my hands on,” Lord told outlets. “I caught it straight off the bottom while fishing with a 4.5-inch live bluegill with a 4-ounce sinker.”

Lord’s win taped out at 40.5 inches and had a 30-inch girth. “I caught it on a Shakespeare Tiger rod spooled with 20-pound test line. It took me 20 to 30 minutes to get it in. He put up a much bigger fight than the 15- to 20-pounders we’ve been catching.”

Lord added that weather conditions had been more challenging than expected this year.

“I’ve been trolling around this place for about three months. The drought this summer’s been terrible,” he admitted. “It was so hot and dry that the only things that were hitting were catfish and snakeheads—so we started targeting the catfish.”

At the beginning of the summer, Lord and his son were using night crawlers and chicken breasts. However, as time went on, they decided to get creative.

“About a month ago, I found this drop-off where the depth goes from 3 feet to 8 feet, and then all the way down to 15 feet,” he said. “With the outgoing tide, your boat sits just right to cast it into the deep and bring it back into the shallow as needed. I started out in that spot using 2.5-inch bluegills. I kept catching the 10-pounders, so I went up to 3.5-inch bluegills, and I was catching a lot of 15- to 20-pound catfish with those. Then I went to a 4 ½ inch, and [the 48-pounder] slammed it.”

According to Lord, he had four other lines out when the blue cat took the bait. His son reeled them in when Lord hooked up.

Angler and his son reel in massive blue catfish, attributes to to ‘team effort’

“If it wasn’t for him, I probably would have crossed my lines, and I might have lost that fish,” Lord said. “It’s a team effort every time we go out.”

In addition, blue catfish are not native to the area. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, they’re invasive throughout the Chesapeake Bay. The species also terrorizes ecosystems within the Bay.

”Blue catfish eat basically everything, including blue crabs and other fish,” said the NOAA. “They compete with other larger fish for food. They eat those other fish, too. As a result, these apex predators are throwing the food web off balance.”

Despite this, Lord said he couldn’t be happier with his catch, which he plans to mount.