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87-pound blue catfish breaks state record


87-pound blue catfish breaks state record



Rusty Keeton of Ardmore landed a new state record 87-pound, 4-ounce blue catfish March 16 from Lake Texoma.

Some would argue that catching a record fish is all skill and others would say it is all luck, but maybe it has a whole lot more to do with just getting out and going fishing.

“I never dreamed I would catch a record fish,” said Rusty Keeton, the newest addition to Oklahoma’s fishing record book. “I just wanted to enjoy a nice day outdoors and do a little fishing on Texoma.”

Keeton, of Ardmore, got more than he bargained for when he hooked an 87-pound, 4-ounce blue catfish near Briar Creek on the southcentral Oklahoma reservoir. His trip, on Sunday, March 16, quickly went from a relaxing morning on the water to an adrenaline-charging, muscle-aching day that he won’t soon forget.

“He hit it just like any other catfish, but when I hooked him he came right to the surface. I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen a fish like that before,” Keeton said.

The big blue hit on shad gizzards, but wasn’t going to come to the boat easily. Unfortunately, Keeton was a bit under matched for the fight.

“I have some better rod and reels, but I hooked it on a little cheap rod and reel combo. I had 25-pound test, which seems pretty strong until you hook a fish like that,” he said.

He fought the fish for 30 minutes, but he said it felt more like three or four hours.

“My arms still hurt. It was like trying to reel in a huge tree stump off the bottom of the lake,” Keeton said.

Now the hard part, he had brought the brute to the side of the boat, but without a net, he was in a quandary as to how to get it into the boat. He made several attempts and it finally came down to crunch time.

“I finally said to myself, ‘This is it, this fish is either coming out the lake or I am going in’ I just grabbed what I could and somehow rolled him into the boat,” he said.

His first instinct was to let the fish go. Keeton only keeps a few fish each year to eat and releases all the largest fish.

“I was going to put him back in the water, but I thought I better find out what the state record is,” Keeton said.

He called his wife who looked up the length of the previous blue catfish record.

“When it measured longer than the state record, I knew I had better get it weighed,” Keeton said.

He contacted Randel Currie, southcentral region fisheries technician for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The fish was weighed on certified scales at the Department’s regional office in Caddo. The huge fish weighed 87 pounds, 4 ounces and was 53 inches long. The girth was 35 1/4 inches.

One of the best parts of the story is that the magnificent fish is alive and well at the Department’s Durant Fish Hatchery.

“I am so grateful to Randel Currie for saving that fish,” Keeton said. “It wasn’t in the best shape, but Randel knew just what to do to keep it alive. I am so glad it has made it.”

Department fisheries personnel are planning to transport the record blue to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks where it will be available for the public to view.

The previous blue catfish record of 85 pounds, 4 ounces was set by Dale Dennis who pulled the big blue catfish from Lake Ellsworth in December of 1999.

For a complete list of record fish and the procedures regarding certifying state record fish, consult the “2003 Oklahoma Fishing Guide”. If you think you may have hooked a record fish it is important that you weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale and the weight is verified by a Wildlife Department employee.

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