The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says a Hernando County man has caught a blue catfish weighing over 69 pounds, taking the state record.
Bill Stewart, 66, of Weeki Wachee, caught the 69-pound, 8-ounce blue catfish on the Choctawhatchee River during the Choctawhatchee Catfish Roundup tournament on May 30. He beat the previous state record by 5 pounds.
The FWC says Stewart put the head from a skipjack herring, which he had caught earlier, on a big circle hook and fortunately, his reel was loaded with 100-pound line because the blue catfish that took the bait was ready for a fight.
Photos: World Record Catches
After he was informed the fish was approximately 69 pounds and if certified by the FWC would be a state record.
An FWC Investigator got the official weight and measurements – 49.5 inches in total length, with a girth of 31.75 inches – and notarized the catch.
The previous state record blue catfish was also caught on the Choctawhatchee River, by James Mitchell in 2008.
Stewart says he is now after the flathead catfish record, which currently stands at 55.05 pounds and was caught in the Chipola River in 2011.
Anyone can try their hand at catching a record fish during license-free weekends. On June 6 and 7, people can fish for saltwater species without a saltwater recreational fishing license. On June 13 and 14, the state won’t require freshwater anglers to have a recreational license. All other fishing regulations – seasons, limits and sizes – still apply during these special opportunities.
State freshwater records require a biologist to verify the species and have a certified weight for the notarized application. The FWC maintains records for 33 freshwater species.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contributed to this report. Copyright 2015 WFLA. All rights reserved.