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New Oconee River Blue Catfish Record Spools Angler On Light Tackle

This is the second time in just a few months the Oconee River blue cat record has been broken.

Mike Bolton | August 15, 2022

Brandon Watts said he wasn’t prepared for a fish this size to bite, but even on light tackle he was able to get it in the boat.

Brandon Watts and his family went to the Oconee River on July 9 with plans to catch a few small catfish that could feed the family. They only caught one fish, but it was big enough to not only feed his family, but many of his neighbors, too.

The blue catfish caught on the stretch of the river below Lake Sinclair weighed 43-lbs., 2-ozs.

“I was fishing a medium-action Ugly Stik spinning rod with some 30-lb. braid,” the 38-year-old steel fabricator from Gordon said. “We were using some shad for cutbait just hoping to catch a few good-eating-size fish.”

The big cat hit, and Brandon immediately had a handful.

“He spooled me on the first run,” he said. “I had to lock the spool down to keep him from pulling all the line out. When everyone finally saw it break the surface, they were ecstatic. It was 10 to 15 minutes before I could finally get him the net. It was long as my baby girl. It was 44 1/2 inches long. Everyone was tickled.”

The family quickly learned that getting a fish of that size weighed on certified scales was not an easy task.

“We kept it alive overnight in a blow-up boat in the backyard with water running on it,” Brandon said. “We went to quite a few places trying to get it weighed. We finally got it weighed at a vet clinic almost 12 hours to the dot after we caught it.

“It was the biggest catfish I’ve ever seen. Thank goodness it was hooked in the lip and it was hooked good.”

Plans were to release the fish alive, but it did not survive. Brandon fileted the fish and kept some for his family and shared the rest with neighbors.

This is the second time in just a few months the Oconee River blue cat record has been broken. On April 24, 10-year-old Zackary Mashburn caught a 38-lbs., 11.52-ozs. cat that held the river until Brandon’s catch.

 

Oconee River Record Fish

Largemouth Bass 10-lbs., 3.2-ozs. Tracey Jackson 03/26/17
Channel Catfish 32-lbs., 6-ozs. Rick Leitheiser 04/07/96
Flathead Catfish 62-lbs. Brian Estes 06/13/99
Striped Bass 63-lbs.* Kelly Ward 05/30/67
Black Crappie 1-lb., 9-ozs. Duke Campbell Jr. 04/01/06
Bluegill 1-lb., 8-ozs. Duke Campbell Jr. 03/31/15
Shellcracker 1-lb., 13-ozs. Ben Bell 05/29/22
Blue Catfish 43-lbs., 2-ozs. Brandon Watts 07/09/22
Bowfin 5-lbs., 2.4-ozs. Shannon Campbell 03/13/21


See all of GON’s official Georgia Lake & River Records here.

Requirements For Record Fish

• Fish must be caught legally by rod and reel in a manner consistent with state game and fish regulations.

• Catch must be weighed on accurate Georgia DOA certified scales with at least two witnesses present, who must be willing to provide their names and phone numbers so they can be contacted to verify the weighing of the fish.

• Witnesses to the weighing must be at least 18 years old, and they must not be members of the angler’s immediate family nor have a close personal relationship with the angler.

• Catch must be positively identified by qualified DNR personnel.

GON’s records are compiled and maintained by GON, to be awarded at GON’s discretion. Additional steps may be required for record consideration.

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