"I kept telling myself, 'That's a trophy,' but I didn't realize it was as big as it was," said Christopher Halley of Brookhaven, Mississippi. "I thought it was an 80-pound fish."
Halley was fishing on the Mississippi River near Natchez on July 31. He was running trotlines from the bank in about 40 feet of water.
"It was a hole, but 40 feet in the river isn't that deep," Halley said.
Halley said he began setting and baiting lines that afternoon and it began to rain so hard he could barely see. He waited the storm out and resumed setting lines. When he finished, he went back to check and re-bait the first lines he put out.
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By the time he finished, it was dark, he was tired and he didn't check his lines again until morning.
"I slept in the boat," Halley said. "I was so tired after the week, I didn't check them that night."
Waking up to a giant catfish
Halley said the record-breaking fish was on the first line and not checking the lines during the night may have worked in his favor.
"The truth is he didn't fight very much," Halley said. "Maybe he was tired.
"Truth is, I was glad. If he'd fought he might have gotten off."
The fish's weight still caused problems. He wouldn't fit in Halley's net and even if he did, Halley determined he was too heavy for the net. Halley grabbed the fish by the gills and pulled him into the boat.
"I was being real cautious," Halley said. "I could tell he was a big fish."
But how big was he? Halley struggled to get him on a scale. At one point the scale read 96 pounds, but Halley looked down and saw the tail was still on the bottom of the boat.
"That meant I wasn't weighing the whole fish," Halley said.
Another attempt indicated the fish weighed 103 pounds. After being weighed on a certified scale, the official weight was 104 pounds making it a new state record.
A new state record. How is that possible?
At this point, readers may be confused. In April, Eugene Cronley of Brandon, Mississippi landed a blue catfish weighing 131 pounds, making it a state record.
So, how is Halley's fish a record?
Well, it's all about how you catch a fish. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has three divisions: rod and reel, fly rod and trophy. The Trophy Division is for fish caught by means other than rod and reel or fly rod.
Cronley caught his fish on a rod and reel.
In this case, it was a trotline and that made it a Trophy Division state record, but it wasn't something Halley set out to do.
"I was just fishing for a good time and to have fish to eat," Halley said. "I don't target trophy fish.
"People say fish that big are too tough to eat. That's simply not true if you cut it up right. We're eating the fish, but I'm having a replica made."
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi angler breaks state record with 104-pound blue catfish