Chesapeake Bay environmentalists and fisheries managers are increasing their calls for us to catch (and eat) more blue catfish. And at least one Virginia angler is certainly doing his part.
Jason Emmel of Louisa, Va. (just east of Charlottesville) just landed a 66-pound-plus blue catfish from the Pamunkey River using a bow and arrow.
Emmel is the new state recordholder for archery blue catfish. The catfish he arrowed measured 3 feet, 6 inches and had a girth of 35 inches. It’s official weight was 66 pounds, 5 ounces.
After state biologists verified it and the State Record Committee reviewed it, Emmel’s catch is recognized as the current Virginia Archery State Record Blue Catfish. It breaks the previous record set in 2021, when William Bates, Jr. caught a 62-pound, 4-ounce blue catfish from Occoquan Bay in Fairfax, Va. Before Bates, Jr., the largest blue cat that had been caught by a bowfisherman was only 55 pounds.
The pattern of record captures seems to reflect what Virginia and Maryland are seeing—a rapid expansion of the invasive blue cat. These fish are adaptable to different salinity levels, which has allowed them to expand into almost every section of the Bay.
As a relatively new predator in the Chesapeake ecosystem, blue catfish are going after American shad eggs, blue crabs, menhaden, rockfish, perch, and spot, among other native fish and shellfish, according to the University of Maryland Extension.
In Virginia, some permitted commercial fishermen are allowed to electrofish for blue catfish—applying a pulsed low-frequency DC current (supplied by a generator) that temporarily stuns fish and brings them to the surface to allow easy harvesting.
But Emmel caught his 66-pound monster the old-fashioned way, with bow and arrow.
-Meg Walburn Viviano