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State Record Hunt: The White Cat

The past few years I’ve been on the hunt to try and knock off some of Virginia’s state records. I made a list at the beginning of 2022 with a number of species I’d like to chase the record for. White Catfish was on that list.

"Nick Anderson's 143 pound World Record Blue Catfish"

Virginia is known for large cats, primarily Blue Catfish. The world record Blue Catfish at 143 pounds was caught in Virginia back in 2011. Along with the Flathead Catfish record at 68 pounds and the Channel Catfish record at 32 pounds, the Old Dominion is really good at growing big whisker fish. However with the big three catfish species getting the majority of the focus, many anglers don’t usually target White Catfish, or even know they exist for that matter. But just like the other three, Virginia’s White Cat population can grow some large specimen as well. Virginia’s current White Cat state record is 7 pounds, 6 ounces. Though that may seem small in comparison, that’s actually fairly large for the species. Our White Cat state record was set on March 23, 1992 by angler Thomas Elkins. And though that record has stood for more than 30 years, that doesn’t mean that the new record isn’t out there. Actually quite the contrary, the new state record is swimming in Virginia waters. This fact has been confirmed by our state biologists and their gill net surveys… it has just managed to fly under the radar given the somewhat obscurity of the species paired with begin overshadowed by the larger species.

"The current state record White Catfish"

I set out on this trip to try and get back into the swing of things and get used to chasing Whites again. I almost exclusively fish for White Catfish in the winter time. They tend to get congregated in deeper water and where the other catfish species get sluggish and somewhat dormant, the White Cat does not. They are constantly patrolling the underwater landscape trying to find any sort of food source that may be present.

The areas in which I target White Cats are ripe with fish and baitfish this time of year, primarily shad and White Perch. I bring jigging blades with me on these trip as I often run into large schools of the perch. After running across one of these schools and landing a few smaller fish, I managed to hook and land the second trophy White Perch of my life. This fish went 1 pound 6 ounces and beat Virginia’s trophy requirements by 2 ounces. Virginia’s trophy White Perch requirements are 13 inches and/or 1 pound 4 ounces.

"Trophy White Perch"

After playing with the perch for a while I switched back to the White Cat hunt and landed a few smaller fish while enduring the cold January wind that seemingly increased with every new catch. It wasn’t long before I landed a decent White Cat at 4 pounds. Throughout the day I ran into a total of two White Catfish right at that size among many smaller fish. While those two individuals were larger than most White Cats an angler will encounter, they were still a long way from the near 8 pounder that I will need to break the record.

I finished the day by hooking and landing a few decent Channel Catfish on a 15 foot flat. Usually, Channels are dormant in that area during this time of year. So when the biggest specimen of the day took my bait and ran like a freight train, I was certain that I had a potential record White Cat on the line. After a brief fight I realized what I was dealing with. Though disappointed that it wasn’t the record I was hoping for, it was interesting to see what the 8 pound Channel looked like and mentally picture what an equivalent White Cat might be. I left the water at dark with just a little more knowledge than I arrived with, and that’s the best any angler, especially one chasing trophies, can hope for.

Josh Dolin

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