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Texas angler gets record case of the blues

Lake Texoma produces an apparent world-record blue whiskerfish

By Lynn Burkhead associate editor — Jan. 20, 2004

Game warden Dale Moses, left, and Cody Mullennix show off a potential world-record 121½-pound blue catfish pulled from Lake Texoma on Friday.

DENISON, Texas — Don't skinny-dip in Texoma!

That's the advice myself and several others received Saturday morning via e-mail from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden Dale Moses.

The reason for Moses' humorous warning about Lake Texoma?

Try a 121-pound, 8-ounce blue catfish being pulled from the chilly waters of the 89,000-acre reservoir that straddles the Oklahoma-Texas border!

Texas angler Cody Mullennix accomplished that feat Friday, Jan. 16, when the 27-year old catfisherman beached a 60-inch blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) while he fished from the bank on the Texas side of the reservoir, located about an hour's drive north of Dallas.

Mullennix's 20-minute battle with the whiskered leviathan produced not only an apparent overall Texas state record for the species, but also a possible International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record.

With Lake Texoma already claiming the Texas rod-and-reel record, the Texas unrestricted standard, and the IGFA's 80-pound line-class benchmark, Mullennix needed little incentive to go fishing Friday.

Not too long into the mild, damp day, the lone angler landed what would prove to be, at the time, a personal-best 56-pound blue catfish.

“ You know you've got something that is large. You're reeling in these things and it's like you lose all blood going to your arms and they go numb. ”
— Cody Mullennix

The day went from good to historic when the next big blue inhaled the angler's offering of a three-inch dead shad on an 8/0 circle hook. What came up at line's end looked like it could swallow the 56-pounder.

"About 20 to 30 minutes later (after the day's first big catch), my other rod and reel went down," Mullennix said. "I grabbed it and knew I had another good fight, that I had hooked another good fish."

That's an understatement for what should prove — paperwork pending, of course — to be the biggest blue cat ever recorded for a rod-and-reel harvest

After a tug-of-war with the beast, Mullennix finally got a glimpse of the behemoth when it broke the surface, rolled, then sounded again.

It may be a face only a mother could love, but the blue's heft is the envy of catfishers.

"It pulled pretty hard," Mullennix said.

"You know you've got something that is large. You're reeling in these things and it's like you loose all blood going to your arms and they go numb."

Mullennix was shocked when he banked the brute.

"I knew I had landed something like I had never seen," Mullennix said.

"We've pulled some good fish in the 60s and 70s. We have seen some good fish. But when I saw this one, I started calling everyone, including Jason."

As in Jason Holbrook, his longtime angling buddy, who landed a Texas state-record blue himself in 1993.

Mullennix had on hand a 50-pound set of scales, but this monster would put that hardware to shame. So Mullennix placed a frantic call to Holbrook, who was at work. Holbrook zoomed out to the lake with a 100-pound set of scales in tow.

"This fish bottomed those scales before we ever even got the fish off the ground," Mullennix said.

After weighing the fish at a local tackle shop on Friday — at the urging of game warden Dale Moses — Mullennix donated the fish to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

Jason Holbrook, left, and Mullennix strain to display the hefty whiskerfish.

Later that evening, a crew showed up to transport the fish back to the TPWD facility, where it will be put on display at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center's popular aquarium.

"I asked Cody what he was going to do with the fish and he said he was going to let it go," Moses said.

"When he told me that, I asked him if he would consider donating it to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center so that others could see the fish swim around. He said yeah, he thought that
would be cool."

At last word on Monday, Moses said the giant catfish was doing "great" and was adjusting to its new home.

"This fish has really generated a big response," Moses said. "Randolph McGee, one of our other game wardens here in Grayson County, got a phone call from a national radio program at 11 o'clock on Sunday night asking about it."

Obviously, this big blue catfish is making some, ahem, waves.

Big blue should rock records

A check of the records indicates the 121½-pound blue catfish caught by Cody Mullennix on Friday at Lake Texoma will smash four records, if all the paperwork is approved.

First, the big blue is poised to move past the benchmark in the International Game Fish Association's 20-pound line class. That fish, a 109¼-pounder, was caught by George A. Lijewski in March 1991 on South Carolina's Cooper River.

Second, the Texoma whiskerfish also is the heir apparent to the all-tackle record, eclipsing the 116¾-pound denizen that was taken from the Mississippi River in Arkansas in August 2001 by Charles Ashley Jr.

Third, the blue would rip up the Texas rod-and-reel record set in March 2000, when Reyes Martinez landed a 100-pound blue cat, which also came from 89,000-acre Lake Texoma.

Finally, the Mullennix catfish also should topple the Texas unrestricted state record for the species, besting the 116-pound blue catfish landed from a trotline in April 1985 by C.D. Martindale.

Where was that big trotline blue catfish taken? You guessed, it, Lake Texoma.

"Not a lot of people get to see a state record, let alone a world-record fish," Moses said

"But those who visit our fisheries center in Athens will be able to say that they've done so."

Mullennix would seem to have great respect for the giant blues of Lake Texoma.

"We've talked about that if we had a chance to talk to the paper, set a record or something like that, we would tell these anglers out there who go after blue cats that they need to release these big blues," Mullennix said.

"We release 99 percent of them — anything over 20 pounds; we release them back into the lake."

It's not that Mullennix and his angling buddies don't like the taste of fried catfish, a staple in the Lone Star State.

It's just that they understand how difficult it is for a blue cat to reach such enormous dimensions.

"These are your big, genetic trophy producers, so turn them back," Mullennix said.

"If you want to brag, take a picture. If you want to eat one, keep a smaller one. These fish are 20, 25 or 30 years old and they deserve to go back into the water."

Except on the rare occasion when a game warden asks you not to!
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