“For once, I just want to go out by myself and relax”
When Steven Price hit the waters of the Kanawha River early on the morning of Wednesday, May 25, he knew that the rising river was potentially a good omen.
According to Price, the river was projected to rise about two feet, meaning his chances of getting a good bite were high.
Despite the favorable conditions, however, Price chose to go solo – something that rarely happens for the experienced catfish angler. Normally he has his partner or a friend with him because, as he told us, “somebody always wants to go fishing.”
Ain’t that the truth…
On this particular excursion, Price was not only looking to catch some fish, though. He stated, “for once, I just want to go out by myself and relax.”
Price’s rare solo venture started off unremarkably, producing a couple small flatheads that weighed between 5-10 pounds each.
Any chance at relaxation, however, was soon about to go out the window.
“You don’t normally get fish back-to-back-to-back like that in this area”
Prior to this trip, Price’s personal best blue catfish had been around 54 pounds. He had been working his way up the scales for a while, first catching a few blues in the 40s, then more in the 40s, and eventually some in the 50s.
Little did Price know that he would soon have several chances that morning to close in on the West Virginia state record.
The first significant bite of the day was a hard fight that ended up getting snagged in a tree. Price believes he may have had a massive flathead on the line, but he was unable to bring the fish in.
Within about twenty minutes, though, Price saw one of his rods bend again and this time there were no impediments stopping him from hauling in the fish.
Despite losing the first big cat of the day to a snag, the second more than made up for it. At 56 pounds, this blue cat was Price’s new “PB” and put him within a few pounds of the state record. For a moment, Price believed he might actually be sitting on the record as it is hard to accurately guess the weight within a couple pounds of a fish that size.
After releasing the fish, Price made some calls and excitedly shared the story of catching the biggest blue cat of his life.
And then another rod bent…
When Price realized he was working with another potentially massive catfish, he couldn’t believe it. “This is getting ridiculous,” he said. “You don’t normally get fish back-to-back-to-back like that in this area.”
“This fish has to be the record!”
At first, Price thought he might have a big flathead on the line. He noted that when fishing for catfish, however, the flatheads will try to keep the line pulled down low while blue cats will start to slowly rise. He noticed the bite resembling a blue more and more then saw the tail slap across the top of the water.
“I just got a mammoth blue,” Price recalled. “This fish has to be the record!”
The decision to fish solo almost backfired during Price’s biggest moment on the water, though. The blue cat fought hard, and Price had to navigate it to the boat while avoiding numerous lines on the back of his boat. Normally, this would be a collaborative effort aided by one of his fishing partners, but Price had to maintain the fish and guide it by himself without risking another tangle.
When the fish got close to the boat, Price also realized the bucket and handle of his net weren’t connected.
Despite the challenges, however, Price was able to secure the massive fish and immediately realized that he might be holding the new West Virginia state record blue catfish.
Initial weights showed the fish weighing around 70 pounds, so Price called his friend Todd Anderson for assistance. Anderson rushed down and they were able to secure the fish in his live well.
“This is really a credit to the West Virginia DNR”
By the time Price arrived at shore with the fish, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources biologist Ryan Bosserman was waiting to certify the fish.
As expected, Price’s fish easily eclipsed the previous WV certified weight record. It also captured the West Virginia blue catfish length record, unifying the two records for the first time in several years.
Price’s blue cat weighed in at 67.22 pounds with a length of 50.7 inches. This displaces the previous two records: Cody Carver’s April 2022 certified weight record of 61.28 pounds on Little Kanawha River and Justin Goode’s 2021 length record of 50.15 inches, caught on the Ohio River in September.
Price credits the West Virginia DNR for not only having staff like Bosserman (who also certified Carver’s record) who are available so quickly, but also for showing a genuine commitment to the health of their fish and fisheries.
While catching two massive “PBs” – including a state record – in under an hour is impressive, Price believes that the most important takeaway from his story is the fact that his state record fish was caught, certified, and safely released within an hour.
“The DNR really try their best to keep these fish healthy,” Price noted. “I really appreciate them getting there in such a hurry.”
Since catching his record fish, Price also stated that friends have asked him if he is worried about the record being broken. In response, Price seems content with savoring the moment and hoping to see his favorite fisheries continue to flourish.
“I just caught a state record. That catch is set in stone, and I will always have that experience,” Price stated. “Every time our records are broken, we know our fish are getting bigger, getting healthier, and that’s a good thing.”