Blue catfish breaks Kansas record

A July 22 article in The Eagle headlined “Monster fish of Kansas” predicted the first official 100-pound blue catfish would soon be pulled from the state’s waters.

On Aug. 11, Rob Stanley of Olathe accomplished the feat when he caught a 102.8-pound blue from the Kansas side of the Missouri River in Kansas City. The catfish topped the previous state record of 94 pounds, set on the Kansas River in 2000.

Stanley’s blue could eventually beat its own record.

The huge fish was released after Stanley and fishing partner Brad Kilpatrick pampered it through a specially designed weighing process.

“It was strong when it swam away,” said Kilpatrick, director of Kansas City Catfish. “My (tournament) group has had a plan for several years on how to keep a record fish alive. We were ready.”

Stanley said he learned most of what he knows about catching big blues since joining the catfish club. Earlier this summer he eclipsed his goal of a 50-pounder when he caught a blue cat of about 70 pounds from the Kansas River.

He didn’t know if he’d ever beat his next goal: a triple-digit catfish. Things didn’t look promising after he and Kilpatrick launched his boat the evening of Aug. 10.

Kilpatrick’s blues of about 10 and 20 pounds were all they’d caught after fishing several favored spots through the night.

After about eight hours of slow action, Stanley was napping when he heard Kilpatrick holler that there was a fish on one of the lines he had baited with a chunk of Asian carp.

“By the time I looked up, the rod was about laid-out flat and line was really peeling from the reel,” said Stanley, who was using a pool-cue-stiff rod, hooks big enough for putting up hay, half-pound sinkers, 80-pound-test line and a reel powerful enough to double as a winch.

He had the fish partway to the boat when he learned he was hooked into something special.

“When he turned he just kept going. There was nothing I could do, even with my equipment,” Stanley said. “I’ve never felt that kind of power.”

When the fish had taken out about 150 yards of line, and was threatening to empty the reel’s spool, Kilpatrick pulled in the anchor and followed the fish with the boat. The fight took about 40 minutes. The partners had to wrestle the fish aboard by hand, because it was too big for their oversize net.

When Stanley’s 100-pound digital scale registered “full,” cell phones went into operation.

Wives and friends were called and on their way as Kilpatrick and Stanley slowly towed the catfish behind the boat as they headed to the ramp.

There they used an oversized tub filled with water being oxygenated by a 100-pound tank. A fisheries biologist was on hand to identify the fish as a blue catfish and witness the official weighing. Certified scales Kilpatrick uses at tournaments put the fish at 102.8 pounds.

The world-record blue cat is a 143-pounder caught last summer in Virginia.

The Missouri state record, which was the world record at the time, was a 130-pound blue cat from the Missouri River near St. Louis in 2010.

Overall, only two Kansas fish have officially weighed more than Stanley’s blue catfish – a 123-pound flathead catfish from Elk City Reservoir in 1998 and a 144-pound paddlefish from a pond in Atchison in 2004.

Unofficially, numerous blue catfish over 100 pounds were reported from the Kansas River until about 1920, when commercial fishing began over-harvesting the species. Blue catfish have increased in numbers and size since being protected from commercial fishing a few decades ago. Interest in catching big blues has also increased significantly.

“I’ll be surprised if (Stanley’s) record takes 12 years to be broken,” said Kilpatrick. “The equipment, the knowledge and the interest is growing so fast. Hopefully we can keep educating people to release the big blues, too. They can usually get a lot bigger.”