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Friday, May 24th, 2024

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Friday, May 24th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Ohio 15-year-old catches giant blue catfish, likely setting new state record

From left to right, Chuck Parker, Jaylynn Parker, and Jeff Sams pose with the 101-pound blue catfish that Jaylynn caught on an Ohio River tributary on April 7, 2024. The fish, which the family said was a team effort getting it to shore, is currently being certified as a record by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio. (Contributed photo)

New Richmond, Ohio – On a sunny Sunday afternoon on April 7, 15-year-old New Richmond High School sophomore Jaylynn Parker lit a match to the Ohio fishing world with her 101-pound plus blue catfish she caught on a jug line in a little flooded creek just west of New Richmond.

It’s quite possibly the largest fish ever caught and recorded in modern times in Ohio. The monster catfish measured 56-1⁄2 inches long, (nearly 5 feet) and was as big around as a pot belly human at 39-1⁄2 inches.

Interesting to note that the giant catfish was caught at 2:30 p.m. from a small, flooded river tributary at the crest of the swollen Ohio River, which peaked at 50 feet around 2 p.m., just a foot below flood stage.

Between Meldahl Dam and Cincinnati are dozens of flooded tributaries, large and small, when the river is up. That particular pool on the river is the Markland Pool that backs up the Ohio River from the Markland Dam at Warsaw, Ky., 95 miles east to Meldahl Dam at Foster, Ky. It’s the same river pool that gave up the current state record blue catfish to Chris Rolph in 2009, which weighed 96 pounds.

Just before dark the evening before, Jeff Sams and Chuck Parker, Jaylynn’s father, set out 17 jug lines, which they attached to tree limbs so they wouldn’t float away into the river. All the lines were baited with skipjack on circle hooks, which they caught at the Barkley/Kentucky Lake dam two weeks earlier.

Sams has a camper on the tributary at a River Pines Campground in New Richmond and was able to monitor the jugs in the flooded creek from the front deck of his camper. The normally small, shallow Ohio River tributary had risen to over 25 feet during the high-water event, coming up to the deck of Sams’ camper, which sits roughly 500 yards upstream from the Ohio River.

Jaylynn Parker, 15, of New Richmond, is shown with her record-breaking 101.11-pound blue catfish from an Ohio River tributary in Clermont County. It is most likely the biggest fish ever caught in the state of Ohio in modern times. (Contributed photo)
A team effort

Chuck Parker had injured his back earlier and it was mid-Sunday afternoon before he and his daughter, Jaylynn, could meet at Sams’ camper. Once there, Sams and Jaylynn slid the small Pelican boat they keep at the camper into the flooded creek to retrieve the jugs.

“She loves to check the jugs,” said Jaylynn’s father.

“My back hurt, so I stayed on Jeff’s big deck that overlooks the whole creek with my wife and Jeff’s wife watching Jaylynn and Jeff check the lines. The jugs were plainly visible and only about 40 to 50 yards away in front of the deck,” said Chuck Parker. “The first jug Jaylynn checked yielded a 15-pound blue catfish, which they released. We knew the second jug had something big because it had pulled the jug under water. It has to be at least 50 pounds for a jug to be pulled under water.”

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When Jaylynn tried to lift the catch, the boat nearly tipped and they quickly realized the monster fish was not going to be boated.

So, they broke off the limb the jug was tied to and paddled the short ways to shore with the big catch swimming along. Once ashore, it took all three to beach the fish, a monster catfish. Amazed at the size of the catch, they searched around and found a fish scale, which the catfish bottomed out at 100 pounds.

“It was then we realized we probably had a state record blue catfish,” said Chuck Parker, “so I called the Clermont County Wildlife Officer, Chase McDonald, to tell him of what Jaylynn had caught and asked what should we do next. He soon arrived with Adams County Wildlife Officer Gus Kiebel. Twenty minutes later, Brown County officer, Micah Collier, arrived. They examined the big catfish, measured its length and girth, and took dozens of pictures. They also inquired about our jugs and they remarked that everything was legal about the catch.”

Record requirements

For state record recognition the species must be positively identified, which it was through photographs taken by the wildlife officers, by District Five fisheries biologist and Supervisor Debbie Walters, who confirmed the fish as a blue catfish.

The next requirement was to have the fish weighed on county certified scales. Luckily, one such scale did exist only 10 minutes away at Bethel Feed, ironically the same certified scale used to weigh the current state record blue catfish in 2009. But, the feed store wasn’t open on Sunday and the weighing had to be put off until Monday morning. That presented a problem.

“Keeping the fish alive to be released was the most important thing to me, even above having a state record,” said Chuck Parker.

Keeping the fish alive

The feed store didn’t open until Monday, so Chuck Parker, Sams, and Jaylynn had to keep the fish alive overnight and then transport it to the feed store the next morning.

“We had a big, black plastic pickup truck toolbox we emptied, cleaned, and we filled it with 5-gallon buckets of water from the creek to transport the catfish to our house where I have a large bait holding pen in my pond,” Chuck Parker said. “Once we got the fish into the pen, I checked on it every hour until 2 a.m. when I fell asleep. Early the next morning, the fish was doing fine and we loaded it back up into the pickup toolbox, filled it with fresh water and went to Bethel. The whole family went and several cars followed and when we got to the feed store 20 to 30 people were already there waiting on us. I spoke with the feed store owner, who said he had done this before.”

After the fish was weighed it was loaded back into the water laden tool box and returned to the flooded creek from where it came from at Sams deck and released.

A video of the release is now widely circulating on social media and was used by USA Today. All four Cincinnati TV news stations have covered the story and interviewed Jaylynn. Social media posts have gone through the roof. The radio station 700-WLW’s post of Chip Harts Big Outdoors upcoming interview has reached over 9,000 likes, 2,000 comments, and 7,000 shares.

Completing the process

Jaylynn’s big catfish officially weighed on certified scales at 101.11 pounds, easily beating out the current state record blue catfish, which weighed 96 pounds.

All the proper paperwork and photos have been submitted to the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, the organization solely responsible for keeping track and certifying Ohio’s state record fish.

Although the fish was not landed by conventional tackle, set lines, jug lines, bank lines, and trotlines are legal in the state of Ohio (see fishing regulations page 14-15 in the 2024 Ohio Fishing Regulations). The fish is currently awaiting certification by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio Record Fish Committee.

“When we finally released the big catfish a bald eagle was circling overhead,” said Parker. “The response has been overwhelming, but some negative things have been said about the catch so I switched off my daughter’s notifications on her cell phone,” Chuck Parker said. “But the good part is all the congratulations, well dones, encouragements, and support she has received. She’s 100% on Cloud 9 right now.”

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