In a January 6 Facebook post, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) announced that William Bates Jr. of Waldorf, Md., set the Virginia archery record for the blue catfish after tying on a giant 62 pounds and 4 ounces.
Bates arrowed the oversized cat on October 1, 2021 in Occoquan Bay, located near Fairfax, Virginia. The heavy catfish was barely an inch under 4 feet long and sported an incredible 32 inch girth. After the Virginia State Record Committee examined and verified the fish, the Bates catch was officially certified and is now recognized as the “Virginia Archery State Record Blue Catfish. “The previous record was held by Logan Horne with a 55-pound, 5-ounce blue catfish that was shot down at Aquia Creek in 2020.
The Occoquan Bay area has a history of producing huge catfish. The Bay relinquished the current 44-pound, 8-ounce archery record to the Flathead Catfish on July 7, 2020 to David Raines at the mouth of the Occoquan River in Belmont Bay, which is adjacent at Occoquan Bay. Blues and flatheads are popular target fish, but the bay also has a healthy population of largemouth bass and bass as well as sunfish, such as bluegill and crappie.
Bates’ new Virginia archery record cat is also the heaviest freshwater fish in the state caught by an archery fisherman. His fish is followed by a 60-pound carp arrowed into a private pond in 1970 by Ben Topham, followed by a common carp weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces from Claytor Lake in 2016 by Hae Kim.
Virginia is one of the nation’s best states for giant blue catfish. The IGFA All Gear and Virginia record for the species is an incredible 143 pound blue caught in Buggs Island Lake (Kerr Lake) in June 2011, by angler Rickard Nicholas Anderson. The blue catfish was introduced to tidal waters in Virginia in 1970 by the DWR. Since then, the population has grown exponentially. To clear up schools of small blue catfish, some commercial fishermen are actually allowed to fish the species with electricity, which uses low frequencies to lure the fish up out of the water. Commercial fishermen must acquire a special license to participate in electrofishing.