A Kansas couple have his and her fishing records.
Stefanie Stanley, of Olathe, got hers when she reeled in a 82.05-pound blue catfish at Milford Reservoir on Saturday. Rich Witt, co-owner of the Catfish Chasers tournament in which Stanley was fishing, said it’s the largest blue catfish ever caught at Milford, and the largest from any lake in Kansas.
As big as it is, though, it was about 20 pounds shy of her tournament partner/husband’s best-ever blue catfish. Robert Stanley holds the current state record for blue catfish at 102.8 pounds, caught from the Missouri River on Aug. 11 last year.
“She has the biggest ever from a lake, and he has the biggest from a Kansas river,” Witt said. “Those are some nice fish.”
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The Stanleys were fishing using dead shad for bait when she saw one of her pink fishing rods start to move.
“We knew he was nice, but then he came up and barrel-rolled beside the boat,” Stefanie Stanley said. “We were like ‘Holy cow, this is a whopper.’ It has shoulders on it like a linebacker.”
After an eight-minute fight, the Stanleys lifted the fish into the boat.
Stefanie said they spent the majority of their day keeping the big fish alive in a 100-gallon livewell.
In addition to eclipsing the Milford Lake record, the big catfish moves Stefanie Stanley up a notch higher in her family.
“Last summer our daughter, BayLeigh, caught a 70-pounder out of the Kaw River,” Stefanie said. “And she’s been teasing me that I hadn’t caught one that big.”
Witt’s partner, David Studebaker, said Stefanie Stanley’s fish didn’t come as a total surprise.
“These blue catfish are really growing, they’re making a world-class fishery here in Kansas in a lot of our lakes,” he said. “It won’t be long before the new state record comes from Milford. It may only be a couple of years.”
It could even be a very familiar fish. Stefanie Stanley’s huge fish was released unharmed, so it could keep growing.
Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism information chief, said blue catfish are native to the Kansas River system, though not many had been caught in the mid- to late 1900s.
In 1990 the fish were stocked in Milford, hoping to create a population of voracious predators that would help control populations of shad and other baitfish. The fish have grown rapidly and are now reproducing well on their own.
Studebaker said the Stanleys won Saturday’s tournament weighing in five fish that totaled 155.38 pounds. He said some anglers had five fish that totaled more than 220 pounds a few days before the tournament.
Witt said catch-and-release fishing has helped the populations of big fish grow. All fish caught at Catfish Chasers tournaments must be released alive. Many anglers, even when not fishing in tournaments, follow an unwritten rule of releasing all blue catfish more than 10 pounds.
Catching blue catfish between 20 and 40 pounds is now common at some lakes, like Milford and Melvern Reservoirs.
Miller said blue catfish have been stocked in about 13 reservoirs and in most are growing well. At many lakes, including El Dorado and Cheney Reservoirs, blue cats must be at least 35 inches long before they can be kept. Miller said the regulation was put in place to let the fish grow large enough to become mature, and reproductive.
As well as creating an exciting trophy fishery, Miller said blue catfish contribute other ways to the Kansas fishing scene. They are active, open-water predators on things like shad, white perch and rough fish, like carp. They’re also munching down on some pests.
“Blue cats eat zebra mussels. I don’t know that they eat enough to really make a difference,” Miller said of the invasive mollusks, “but we know they’re doing well in lakes with zebra mussels.”