RALEIGH, N.C. -
Want to catch a state-record blue catfish? Go striper fishing.
By yourself. And make sure that your tackle is too light by
several magnitudes to handle a fish that weighs more than your
That's what Concord, N.C., resident Andy Richmond did on May 1,
when he trailered his 24-foot Scout bay boat to nearby Badin Lake
for a morning of striper fishing.
"I left the house at 5 a.m. to catch some bait (shad) with
a cast net," he said. "My intent was to fish for
stripers, but I only caught a couple of small channel cats in the
river section of the lake."
Richmond, a self-employed engineering consultant, had fished
the previous Tuesday and had marked some fish in another section
of the lake. The arcs on the fish-finder display were huge, so he
knew these were not panfish or schools of bait.
Using a slow-trolling presentation, "I drug bait over the
top of those fish until I came to the conclusion that they were
catfish," Richmond said.
A confessed opportunist when it comes to angling, Richmond
decided to make catfish lemonade out of the striper lemons he'd
"The water was about 40 to 42 feet deep, and the fish were
holding close to the channel," he said, "so I adjusted
my baits down, dropping them down to the bottom and cranking them
up a few feet."
It wasn't long before his patience was rewarded: A 40-pound
blue cat hit one of his big Carolina-rigged gizzard shad. That
would have been a career fish for most people, and it was for
Richmond, whose biggest cats had been in the 20- to 25-pound
"I put (the baits) down again, and it wasn't 10 minutes
before the big fish hit," he said. "I knew within the
first 30 seconds that he was something special. I thought he had
run into a tree; I couldn't move him. We sat in a stalemate. Then
I fought him for 20 minutes while trying to get the other rods up
(lines out of the water)."
Richmond said he doesn't carry a net because nets take up too
much room, but he had a homemade gaff. After 30 minutes of
fighting the fish on 14-pound test Stren line, he hooked the gaff
in the fish's mouth.
"I don't know how I got him in the boat," he said.
"After I did, I just sat down for a while before putting him
in the livewell. I caught some other cats, including a 40-pounder
at about 5:30 p.m. and then packed up to get the fish
That's when another battle of sorts began. First, Richmond went
to Hwy 49 Sporting Goods to weigh the fish, but the scale went
only to 50 pounds and was not certified by the state. The next
stop was a Food Lion, where the scale was certified but went to
only 30 pounds. Meanwhile, Richmond called his wife to help in the
search for certified scales. He called the Bass Pro Shops store in
Concord and was told to bring the fish in - to shipping scales
topping out at 50 pounds. Another Food Lion had 30-pound,
At that point, Richmond had "four or five" friends
gathered around his truck, all working cell phones trying to find
Finally, at 10:30 p.m., the fish was weighed at Tru-Value
Hardware in Hickory Grove, N.C., on an outdoor platform scale with
a balance arm - and a sticker stating the scale was
state-certified. Randy Thomas, a hunter education specialist with
the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, had joined the party and
was on his cell phone getting specifics from state fisheries
employees on certifying the fish. Richmond said that Lawrence
Dorsey, District 6 fisheries biologist, was one of those
"I put the fish on the scales, turned and walked
away," Richmond said. "I turned it over to Randy at that
The scale read 83 pounds even. The fish had a length of 49
inches and a girth of 37 inches. Richmond had intended to weigh
and release the fish, but it died during the scale scramble. Now,
the angler plans to have a fiberglass replica made.
Although Richmond has 40 years of experience fishing, he said
this is his most memorable catch. What makes it even more
memorable is that he was using standard striper tackle to do it: a
7-foot live-bait rod from Bass Pro Shops, a BPS baitcasting reel
similar to an Ambassadeur 6500C, 2/0 Daiichi light circle hooks,
14-pound test line and a 7-inch gizzard shad for bait.
"I'm still going to fish for stripers," he said.
"But, I'm going to pay greater attention when I see big arcs
on my graph."