Elsah man’s catch challenges catfish world record

Alton, Ill. — As it turns out, hooking and hoisting a catfish that challenges the 124-pound world record is actually the easy part.

Just ask Anthony Maggart, who pulled a 114-pound blue cat out of the Mississippi River last month. Once the monster fish was yanked into the boat and delivered to shore, the 33-year-old Elsah man and his brother-in-law took turns standing up to their chest in the river, securing the fish in an attempt to keep it alive until someone with an official scale and a camera showed up.

It was 3 a.m. They stood in the water for more than three hours.

“My boat’s livewell, you know, wasn’t quite big enough,” Maggart, who had been drift fishing just below the Melvin Price Locks and Dam 26 early the morning of July 21. The big catch came at about 2 a.m. and included a half-hour struggle.

Brother-in-law Brandon Roady, of Wood River, were using herring as bait out of Maggart’s 22-foot SeaArk. He was drifting a 100-pound braided line connected to an 80-pound leader. The duo, which fishes quite frequently along the stretch of river, was just about to give up for the night. Maggart suggested one more pass, which resulted in hooking the giant blue cat.

“I’ve caught a lot of 40 and 50 pounders and even some in the 80s, my personal biggest was 89 pounds, so I knew when I hooked this one it was a serious fish,” he said.  Once the fish was hauled to shore, reality set in for Maggart. He knew the fish was close to the state record – also the world record – 124-pound blue cat caught in the same stretch of river by Tim Pruitt, of Godfrey, back in 2005.

“It might be a record, and it was 3 a.m. on a Sunday, so how was I going to get the thing weighed and photographed and all that?” he recalls thinking. “I made a bunch of calls and woke up a bunch of people, including my wife.”

After hours of Maggart and Roady taking turns holding the fish in the water, cameras and scales did finally arrive. Maggart’s fish weighed in at 114.4 pounds, about 10 pounds short of the record. He released the fish back into the Mississippi.

Maggart, who has been fishing since he was a small boy – he spent many hours on the water with his late father, Basil – does plan to have a replica of the giant blue cat made. Where will he place the replica in his home?

“Seeing that I woke my wife up at 3 a.m. to photograph it, I might let her decide that,” he said.

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