Caryville Man Catches Record Blue Catfish

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James Mitchell with his state-record, 64 1/2-pound blue catfish. - (FWC photo by Chris Paxton)Long-time Washington County resident James Mitchell caught a new state-record blue catfish late Monday afternoon on the Choctawhatchee River.

The state-record blue catfish weighed 64 pounds, 8 ounces and was 53 1/2 inches long.  The fish is 3 pounds larger than the previous record, a 61-pound, 8-ounce blue cat that came from Little Escambia Creek north of Pensacola.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fisheries biologists Chris Paxton and Claire Mangum met with Mitchell on Tuesday in Bonifay and weighed his fish on certified scales.

The 64-year-old Mitchell, who is disabled but still enjoys fishing, fished a favorite spot on the Choctawhatchee Monday near Caryville.  He caught the record catfish at sundown but needed the help of his son and grandson to pull the fish over the side of his boat.

He said the 10-minute fight left him worn out.

Mitchell fishes for catfish often on the river and uses bream, which is his bait of choice.

He caught the blue cat on a hand-sized bluegill, 6-foot rod and bait-caster reel loaded with 50-pound-test line.

“The bigger the bream the better,” Mitchell said.  He catches his bream using either a fly rod or cane pole. 

Within the past couple of months, he’s caught big blues or channel cats, he’s not sure which, out of the same stretch of the river, weighing 40 1/4 and 41 1/2 pounds.

While blue catfish are found in most of the rivers and some creeks in the Panhandle over to the Suwannee River, they are not native to the area.  They were originally found in rivers and tributaries in the Midwest and the Mississippi River drainage.  Exactly how they made it to Florida waterways is unknown.