Ricky Barrett just caught not only the biggest blue catfish he’s ever seen, but the monster turned out to be a brand-new rod-and-reel state-record blue cat, crushing the old state record by 13 pounds. Caught from the Altamaha River on Oct. 14, the behemoth catfish weighed 93 pounds on certified scales.
While having fished all of his life, Ricky has raised up his girls to appreciate the great sport of fishing, too. When Ricky caught the giant blue cat, he was actually having a little quality daddy-daughter time on the river. His oldest daughter, Sarah, will be getting married in November, so he wanted to spend a little bit of time with her before he gave her away to her soon-to-be husband. She picked Saturday, Oct. 14 for a fishing day with her dad, which also happened to be Ricky’s 44th birthday. Grace, his youngest daughter, went along, too.
Last summer, Ricky and Grace went searching for the deepest holes they could find on the river.
“There was this one hole that Grace and I went to last year, and I kept having my line broken, like two or three times in the same hole. That’s when I decided that I needed to get some better line and change it out on some of my reels,” said Ricky, who lives the town of Axson in Atkinson County.
One of the rods Ricky purchased was a Zebco Catfish Fighter rod from Kmart. He had that rod loaded with 30-lb. test Trilene and a 1/0 Daiichi hook. This was the setup that boated the big catfish, and Ricky said the fish didn’t even bend the hook.
Ricky and the girls got out on the river around 7 a.m. and got to their spot. Between the time they put in and 9 a.m., they caught a few small fish, mainly channel cats and a small gar. He used one of the small channel cats for bait. A gar picked the bait up and was messing with it not too long before the monster catfish came by. Right before Ricky set the hook to reel it in, the gar let go of it.
“I sat the rod down hoping that my bait was still good, and then maybe 20 seconds later, I got a big nibble. Then all of a sudden my rod started sliding down the boat,” Ricky said.
He grabbed the rod and set the hook fairly hard, and when he reared back trying to bring the fish toward the boat, that’s when Ricky knew it was a lot bigger than he thought. The fish drug the boat—anchor and all—50 to 70 yards down the river. Then the fish stopped. Ricky figured he was hung on a log or something. The fish would pull some drag and then quit, and it repeated this a few times. Then he started to swim out toward a sandbar.
“I was tickled over that because that let me know that he wasn’t hung up on a tree or log. I told the girls to look real hard because he was about to come up,” said Ricky.
That’s when they saw something that looked like a log or a big dark spot in the water 3 to 4 feet down. When they saw that, he looked like he was about 5 to 6 feet long.
“I said, ‘Lord have mercy, look at that fish!’ That’s when I started getting real nervous. I used a limb line when I was younger but had never seen anything this big. It was the biggest fish I had ever seen in my life,” said Ricky.
Ricky and Sarah were taking turns paddling to the bank, so that Grace could grab onto a tree limb and the fish wouldn’t continue to drag them down the river. After a 30-minute battle, Ricky finally got the fish up to the boat and handed Sarah the rod so that he could grab the gaff in order to get him in the boat.
“I was afraid that if I didn’t gaff him, he would scare off as soon as I tried to grab him through the gills, and I didn’t want to chance that. When we got him in the boat, I was shaking so bad that I couldn’t lift him up too much for a picture. I was really blessed that day and very tickled to have my youngest and oldest daughter with me. That fish was just a bonus,” said Ricky.
The fish was weighed on certified scales at Davis Farm & Garden in Hazlehurst. WRD Fisheries biologists also saw and verified the fish.
If you catch a potential record fish in a Georgia lake or river, contact GON at 800.438.4663 or firstname.lastname@example.org.