The invasive blue catfish population has been growing on Chesapeake Bay tributaries in recent years, but apparently the fish themselves have also been growing—a lot.
Up the Nanticoke River into Delaware, two state records have been set in less than a month. On Sept. 2, Bridgeville, Delaware angler Chris Andrews caught a a 48-pound, 7.2-ounce blue cat using cut bait while fishing at night with his friends. His fish was certified at Taylored Tackle Shop in Seaford and oncfirmed by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Andrews got to enjoy his title as blue catfish state record holder for only 20 days before his record was broken by angler Sydney McBroom, also from Bridgeville. His fish came in at 53 pounds, making it not just the largest blue catfish caught in Delaware, but also likely the largest freshwater fish ever caught since DNREC started keeping recreational fishing records.
McBroom landed his 53-pounder mid-morning on Sept. 22, also on the Nanticoke. He used a whole bluegill as bait. It was a 20-minute wrestling match to bring the fish in once he hooked it.
“You use a big fish to catch a big fish,” McBroom said. “I don’t fish for attention, I fish for fun, I fish for me. You have to go onto the water and put your time in. We’d see a mess of nice catfish (every time we went out). That was just our day.”
McBroom’s blue catfish catch shattered Andrews’ state record caught Sept. 2 by more than 4.5 pounds. Andrews’ record broke a 2022 record-setting fish, but only by 4 ounces. McBroom’s fish was weighed and certified at Lewes Harbour Marina in Lewes, Delaware.
The state sponsors the year-round Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament to promote recreational fishing in Delaware. Anglers who submit an application for a record catch receive an award and a citation featuring color reproduction paintings of the fish species they caught. The tournament, running Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 each year, recognizes young and adult anglers. McBroom’s is the fifth state record of the 2023 Sport Fishing Tournament.
While Delaware anglers are catching bigger blue catfish by the month, they still haven’t come closer to the Maryland record fish, an 84-pounder caught in the Potomac River. The tidal Potomac is ground zero for invasive blue cats, since they were first introduced in the Bay region in the Virginia portion of the Potomac.
The world record blue catfish was caught in an inland lake along the Virginia-North Carolina border. That fish was an eye-popping 143 pounds. The record, set in Buggs Island Lake by Richard “Nick” Anderson back in 2011, hasn’t been touched since.
Blue catfish prefer large rivers having deep channels with a swift current and a sandy bottom, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. They are the largest in the catfish family. Catching and eating them is encouraged as their numbers continue to grow. According to NOAA Fisheries, blue cats are “likely negatively affecting the Bay ecosystem because they eat so many native species, such as striped bass, blue crab, shad, herring, and Atlantic sturgeon.”
-Meg Walburn Viviano