Etowah Blue Catfish Record Finally Established

After releasing several potential record blues, Hugh Stephens certifies a new mark.

Nav Karr | June 8, 2022

On May 31, I called my fishing buddy and striper mentor Perry Nichols, and we talked about a plan to fish for stripers on the Etowah River (we call it the “E”) on Friday, June 3. We planned to take Perry’s jet boat, which is larger than mine, and Perry invited his nephew-in-law Allann Moroni to fish with us.

AIIann and his wife are missionaries with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). They are missionaries in Spain. His home country is Brazil. He, his wife and two children just arrived in Marietta a few days ago. They will travel this summer to visit their supporters in the United States, traveling from Georgia to California.

The new Etowah River record blue catfish was certified at 27-lbs., 0.8-ozs. Pictured with the fish before it was released alive and well is (left to right) Allann Moroni, Hugh Stephens and Perry Nichols.

Perry, who lives in Marietta, has fished the Coosa River system since 1996. He was a member of the Rome Striper Club, and I served with him at Riverstone Church in Small Group leadership. In 2004 he bought his River Pro jet boat and began guiding fishing trips on the Coosa River system. My first trip was with him in 2005. Being a native of Louisiana, duck hunting and fishing all my life, when I caught my first striper, I was hooked on fishing rivers. He taught me how to freeline, bottom fish, pull planer boards, catch and fish with live shad. He taught me everything about river fishing for stripers. Thank you, Perry, for the gift of mentoring and teaching me the art of river fishing.

My goal was to get into the ”30 Club,” which is when we catch a striper over 30 pounds. Perry has landed may of these, and he is also in the 40-lb. Club. I caught a lot of stripers over the years, but only up to 29 pounds. Finally, fishing with Perry in Tennessee last July, I joined the club and landed a 36-Ib. fish! On to the 40-Ib. Club!

Now on to our fishing trip last Friday, June 3. We stopped by Shad Shack in Acworth and bought threadfin shad for our bait tank, took a break for breakfast, and headed to the “E.” We began fishing the upper river at Kingston with the water clear and falling. We caught one striper and some catfish. We then headed to downtown Rome. We launched on the Coosa and headed up the “E.” The water was off-color and the river was running high with falling water. We stopped and fished a spot and no luck. We decided to move up the river to the same spot where I fished with John Morgado on May 17 when he landed the new Etowah flathead catfish record that weighed just over 38 pounds.

We fished that spot for almost a hour, no bites, so we made the decision to leave, and then it happened.The rod bent over and line was stripping off my reel. A striper for sure. But, during the 10-minute fight we saw the dprsal fin of a catfish. One thing about blue cats, they fight like a striper. During the fight, the fish zig zagged the river and got hung up twice. I had to open the reel and let the pressure off, and both times it freed the fish from being snagged in the river. This fish also—like the 23-Ib. bue catfish I caught on my trip with John weeks earlier, a record fish I did not have certified—headed upriver beyond the boat in the current. This is a move I have only seen with blue catfish. Perry grabbed net and landed the 27-Ib. blue catfish in the boat, the second river record I caught in three weeks. We continued to fish and caught seven stripers for a great day.

Hugh Stephens, of Canton, with his Etowah River record blue catfish caught on a live threadfin shad June 3, 2022. The 38-inch-long cat weighed 27-lbs., 0.8-ozs.

We stopped by Georgia DNR in Armuchee on the way home and had the fish weighed and certified. They gave him oxygen, took photos and we released him in the Oostanaula River (the “O”) near Calhoun, the same place we released John’s fIathead record weeks earlier. Hopefully, they both return to the “E.”

Fishing for stripers was the goal, but being interrupted by those catfish was truly a great experience on the “E” and lifetime memories with my brothers in Christ: Perry, AIIann and John.

Editor’s Note: GON’s website is undergoing an upgrade, and our online Lake & River Records will be updated the first of July once website work is completed. 

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