As It Happens

This angler reeled in the biggest blue catfish yet in the Mississippi River

After years of fishing in the Mississippi River, Eugene Cronley landed his biggest catch yet.

'I'm still fishing, but I figured it's gonna be downhill from here now,' Eugene Cronley says

Eugene Cronley has spent his entire life fishing. And last week, he landed a record-breaking blue catfish, which has just been certified by the state. (Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks)

After years of fishing in the Mississippi River, Eugene Cronley landed his biggest catch yet — a massive, record-breaking blue catfish.

The heavyweight catch clocked in at 131 pounds (59.4 kilograms). And according to Mississippi's Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, it crushed the state's previous rod-and-reel record of 95 pounds (43 kg) caught by Dakota Hinson in 2009.

It also beat the Mississippi record for the largest blue catfish ever caught, regardless of method, set in 1997 at 101 pounds (45.8 kg) by Freddie Parker and Brad Smith.

But what all three of the enormous catfish had in common was that they were cruising through Natchez, Miss., when the anglers lured them in.

"I weigh 175 pounds and I'm 69 years old, and this fish gave me a workout," Cronley told As It Happens guest host Dave Seglins.

He was out fishing with his brother when he encountered the beast.

"We [were] sitting there and it had been about two minutes, then he hit it," he said. "I grabbed the pole. We got a rod holder, picked up that rod holder and held it. And all it kept doing was drag, pull and drag."

Cronley and his brother caught the record-breaking catfish that was too big to fit into a cooler. (Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks)

Then the creature took the brothers for a ride. 

"We had to … untie the boat and drift down the river with the fish....I just [kept] working with him, I say, almost 30 minutes trying to get him up," he said. 

"We got the head up and the fin. And we [were] having trouble getting the rest of him in there. We kept on [and] when we finally got it, it flopped in the boat."

The pair then cut a small hole in the bottom lip of the catfish and tied a rope to it. They had 250-quart coolers in the boat, but none were big enough for their catch. 

So the brothers wrestled with its weight and put the fish back out in the water to coast alongside the boat as they made their way back to the riverbank.

When they got home, they assessed their fish and realized it was twice as big as the catfish they usually catch — which are between 40 and 50 pounds (18 to 23 kilograms) — and it had "a real big head on him."

It turned out to be nearly 1.7 metres long and weighed nearly 60 kilograms.

"We knew he's big, but I didn't realize that much," Cronley said. "It feels pretty good."

The angler donated his record-breaking blue catfish to the local wildlife museum, which he says plans to mount it. At the same time, he has no intent to hang up his fishing rod just yet.

"I'm still fishing, but I figured it's gonna be downhill from here now," he said. 

Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview with Eugene Cronley produced by Aloysius Wong.


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