It Was “This Big” – I Swear!

And they have the photos to prove it. Thanks to Kenny Fletcher for sending. He writes:

Thought you might like to see what lurks beneath the waters of the Potomac in D.C.

I was fishing Saturday afternoon with my friend, Campbell Moore, off the shore in Georgetown using chicken gizzards for bait (bought at the Petworth Safeway). My friend hooked this giant catfish, and a 25-minute back and forth battle ensued. It was pretty tense, as we knew that the line could snap at any minute. We ended up with quite an audience, as several canoes, kayakers and paddle boarders stopped to watch the fight. When the fish finally tired out and allowed itself to be pulled near the riverbank, I waded out, stuck my hands its mouth and hoisted it up onto the shore.

We took a few pictures of the fish before releasing it back into the river, and it swam off as if nothing had happened (large catfish from the Potomac are not safe to eat because of accumulated pollutants). We estimated it measured close to 3.5 feet and weighed 30-35 pounds. For scale, my friend is about 6’1″. And they can get much bigger than this… A guy caught an 80-pound catfish in the Potomac in Prince George’s County in February. Anyway, just a reminder that we share the city with some surprising creatures. While we were fishing, and with the Key Bridge as a backdrop, we also saw a bald eagle grab a large fish and fly off toward the trees on the Virginia side.

Awesome! Kenny mentions that there was a guy taking video of the fight in a nearby canoe – if you happen to be or know the person that took the video please send me an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail so Kenny and Campbell can see the video.

29 Comment

  • Mmmm…and all the yummy toxins that come with it? I wonder if they are going to cook the big ol’ thing. I am not sure, but I thought I once read that catfish were bottom feeders?

  • ‘When the fish finally tired out and allowed itself to be pulled near the riverbank, I waded out, stuck my hands its mouth and hoisted it up onto the shore.’

    *blush! There need to be way more men in this world who do things like that. 😉

    Great story, thanks for sharing. The bald eagle scene must have been spectacular.

  • What a great story. Thanks for sharing!

  • Awesome work ya’ll!

    Glad ya’ll released it to.

  • Very cool, and thanks for releasing him back into the water. No point in killing it if you can’t eat it. What a huge creature!

  • I see guys pull out fish that big all the time right in front of the Watergate. In fact, they have a rack made out of a tree limb right there that they use to hang them and gut them, before taking them home at eating them. The fish are just shockingly big and they say that they catch them that size every week.

  • Generally, a fish caught with bait such as chicken gizzard will not survive being released. Unlike with artificial flies and lures, fish swallow “real” bait and so the hook does damage to the fish’s throat and stomach, not just its lips. Maybe this fish got hooked in a relatively lucky spot in his mouth, but I wouldn’t bet that it survived. I’ve actually never heard of “catch and release” fishermen using bait before.

    • The fish was hooked in the lip, as Cam set the hook before it swallowed the bait.

      And on another interesting note, blue catfish are an invasive species in the Potomac, so there’s actually controversy over whether large fish should be released:

    • jim_ed

      You’re joking, right?

      No one with even a modicum of experience fresh water fishing would believe such an assinine statement. I cannoy stress enough how inaccurate and flat out wrong that is.

      A baited hook and a lure function the exact same way when hit by a fish, the fish bites down, and when it turns to swim away, the hook gets set in the mouth. Not to mention it would be by sheer dumb luck to catch a catfish on anything other than a baited hook, as catfish are sedentary bottom dwellers who will eat anything the find on the bottom of the river/lake bed. That’s why you’re not supposed to eat them out of the Anacostia/Potomac or any other polluted source, as it says on the back of your DC fishing license.

      • Thank you for not being an idiot.

        I can only imagine why this person thinks that could possibly be true. Do they not realize that artificial lures’ entire purpose is to mimic live bait, or do they think fish somehow know the difference and swallow live bait, but just nibble on lures for fun?

        • I, for one, am pretty sure they know the difference between biting down on a metal or fibrous lure or fly and biting a piece of chicken. I’ve never really fished for catfish, but in a lifetime of fishing for trout and bass I’ve pulled quite a few baited hooks out from deep down in the gullet while flies almost always catch right in the corner of the mouth.

          • They really don’t.

            Fish are not people, they don’t take a little bite of something to see if they like it. (Except for sharks.) Since the kind of fish you would be catching in a river eat things that are much smaller than them, if it looks like food, they are going to try to swallow it.

            I’m guessing the reason you find baited hooks in the stomach more often is because lures are almost always in motion, trying to mimic a live creature, while baited hooks are often floating stationary below a bobber. It’s a lot easier to swallow deeper when eating a stationary target as opposed to one moving away from the fish.

    • I’ve seen this happen only once and it was with a large wahoo out in the Gulf. Which I would never throw back anyway because they are delicious. Never seen a freshwater fish swallow a hook — whether fly, artificial, or loaded with bait. Never heard of it either.

  • This is terrifying! When is Jeremy Wade coming to shoot River Monsters DC?

  • Have you heard about the one-armed fisherman?

    He caught a fish [extend one arm all the way out] THIS big!

  • I know people do it all the time, but is it actually safe to eat any amount or size of fish out of the Potomac?

  • Emmaleigh504

    Great pics! What a fine looking specimen!!

  • Oh my god, I knew there had to be something useful about the Petworth Safeway—bait for big gross fish. For those who haven’t been there, thei Safeway used to smell like formaldehyde, then it got really nasty smelling. Thank god they’re tearing it down.

    I hope its replacement sells gizzards, so we can get more cool fish stories like this in the future.

  • Ever seen the show Hillybilly Handfishing? They catch this size and larger…just not from the Potomac! ::shudders::

  • Isn’t “catch & release” basically torturing fish for your entertainment?

    Either eat what you catch, or find a new hobby. Injuring or killing something for fun is gross.

    • find the vegan blog

    • You’re kidding, right?

      • No, not kidding. But then, I don’t pull the wings off of flies, either. I suppose that’s what you think is funny?

        And not a vegan. Pretty accomplished angler, no less. But I don’t do catch and release. It shows a basic lack of awareness and kindness.

        • I don’t know, I’m kind of happy to have actually lived through traumas (i.e. catch and release) than have gobbled my last gizzard . . .

  • On an unrelated fishing story, I remember several years back (mid80s?) when some guys caught what was either a world or US record-setting carp (I think) in the Tidal Basin – that thing was enormous. Nasty looking, but I guess that comes from living in the Tidal Basin for several years.

  • just don’t get fishing. Isn’t the hook going to cause damage to the fish?

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