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Blue Cat

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The biggest freshwater fish registered in Virginia at the time, 109-pound blue catfish. The fish, caught by Tony Milam in March 2011 at Buggs Island Lake now at the Bass Pro Shops Aquarium, Ashland VA.

Still testing my vintage telephoto-zoom lens for sharpness. Very low light but beautiful Aquarium!


2 responses

  1. Buggs Island produces Virginia-record 109-pound blue catfish
    Bass Pro Shops to show live fish
    Staff WriterMarch 31, 2011
    Tony Milam, 47, thought he might be dealing with a 50-pounder.

    The South Boston, Va., man was fishing for blue catfish on the state line-straddling reservoir known as Buggs Island Lake in Virginia and Kerr Lake in North Carolina on March 17 when one of his lines had a strike.

    By the time Milam grabbed the rod, the fish had surfaced about 30 feet away.

    “The tail was big and thick,” the angler said.

    He had no idea he was dealing with the next Virginia record blue catfish, a 109-pound giant that was officially certified Friday.

    Milam, a stay-at-home grandfather, battled the fish for several minutes, keeping the pressure on it, until the fish turned toward the boat. The boat was anchored in the front and the back, and the fish swam between the two anchor lines, making Milam nervous.

    Milam kept the pressure on the fish and turned it around. It surfaced, and friend and fishing partner with friend Mike “Chubbs” Reaves was ready with the net to scoop the fish.

    The men cut the fishing line and left the monster fish in the water and called a couple of friends fishing nearby to help.

    “One of the other guys caught an 80-pounder on the James [River] and said, ‘That was bigger than the one I got,'” Milam said.

    The men hoisted the fish on a spring-loaded scale, and the fish bottomed the scale out at 75 pounds. The men dug up another spring-loaded scale that went to 100 pounds. That scale bottomed out, too.

    “That’s when we called the game warden,” Reaves said.

    The previous state record, a James River blue catfish caught in 2009, weighed 102 pounds, 4 ounces.

    By comparison, North Carolina’s state record blue cat weighed 89 pounds and was caught in Badin Lake in November 2006.

    One of the fellows who had come to help snapped a picture of the fish with his smartphone and quickly posted the fish to Facebook. Milam estimated that about 200 people showed up at the Staunton River State Park boat ramp to see the fish.

    The anglers slipped the fish back into the net in the water. The men, all die-hard blue catfish fishermen, were very gentle with the fish. Normally, they practice catch-and-release, and this fish would have been released were it not a state record.

    They didn’t want the fish to die, and Reaves had an idea.

    He had seen an ad in a magazine. Bass Pro Shops, which opened a store in Richmond in 2008, had asked readers for live fish.

    “It said they will possibly do a free replica mount if you donate the fish to them,” Reaves said.

    He dialed the phone number from the ad that he had saved in his cell phone.

    The fishing tackle giant indeed wanted the then-pending state record fish in its tank and quickly sent a truck from Richmond.

    But the fish had to be kept alive and healthy. Lew Compton of Buffalo Junction, Va., another friend and fishing buddy of Milam’s, helped out.

    Compton went to get a 200-gallon aerated cattle tank that normally is used in blue catfish tournaments.

    “I just wanted to keep him alive,” Compton said. “We were keeping him upright to so he would breath right. I had my hand in his mouth, holding him up. He was a monster.”

    The tank allowed the fish to be safely transported to Mecklenburg Supply, where it weighed 109 pounds on a certified scale. It was 53 inches long and had a girth of 41 inches.

    The Bass Pro Shops truck arrived after a couple of hours later, and the fish was shipped to Missouri, where it is being quarantined for at least 30 days and possibly up to six months. Staff will check for diseases, make sure it isn’t injured and make sure it will get along with other fish. Assuming all that checks out, the fish will be taken to the Richmond store and a promotional event will be held.

    A Bass Pro Shops spokesman said via e-mail that Milam will get a replica of the fish if it is able to be displayed.

    Milam, though happy about the fish and the record, said he wouldn’t have been upset if the fish had escaped.

    “It really doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “If he would have broke the line, it would have been fine by me — another big one that got away.”

    But now, wherever he goes, “it’s all anybody wants to talk about,” Milam said. “I’m used to talking about somebody else’s fish instead of mine.”

    javier.serna@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4953

    Catching the 109-pound blue catfish

    Tony Milam of South Boston, Va., caught a 109-pound blue catfish on the Virginia side of Kerr Lake, which is called Buggs Island Lake, on March 17. The fish has been certified as the Virginia state record. Here’s what Milam was using:

    Rig: two gizzard shad, not quite 3 inches apiece, on 5/O Eagle Claw Kale hook; 18-inch, 50-pound test leader below a barrel swivel and a 3-ounce weight

    Rod: 6-foot, medium-action Ugly Stick

    Reel: Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500 baitcast reel spooled with 30-pound test Bass Pro Shops monofilament

    February 19, 2014 at 11:22 pm

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