St. Louis, Missouri — It’s not every day you go out to
fish on the waters of the Missouri River and come back swimming in a
media frenzy. Of course it could happen if, like Greg Bernal, you
manage to topple a Missouri state — and quite probably a world
That’s just what did happen to the Florissant angler after he reeled
in a 130-pound monster blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) in the
early morning hours of Tuesday, July 20.
Bernal and his fishing companion, Janet Momphard of St. Charles, set
out Monday night for a catfishing trip on the Missouri River in St.
Louis County near Columbia Bottom Conservation Area. They were in
place by around 9:00 p.m. that evening.
For reasons obvious to most anglers, they are keeping the exact
location between them and the Big Muddy. (continued below)
Bernal was fishing from his boat using rod, reel, and 40-pound test
line. Cut silver carp was on the hook for bait. With storms
approaching, the two decided to call it quits by 1:00 a.m. Then, at
around 12:45 a.m., Bernal‘s line tightened.
“There was no movement at first,” reported Bernal. “I didn’t even
know it was a fish. He was hung up on the bottom.”
The fish soon worked its way out and the fight began. It was a
difficult struggle. “But I had my footing on him,” said Bernal.
After 15 minutes, Bernal managed to pull the fish to the boat. From
there it took him and Momphard a half hour to wrestle the behemoth
from the water.
Momphard knew right away her companion had landed a big one.
“He’s got his almost 80-pounder on the wall, and I’m like, that’s
much bigger,” she said. “We lift a 125-pound generator all the time,
and when we went to lift that thing up, I said this thing weighs
close to the generator.”
Tuesday morning the two took their catch to the Missouri Department
of Conservation’s Regional Office at the August A. Busch Memorial
Conservation Area in St. Charles. There, Fisheries Management
Biologist Sarah Peper set out to weigh and measure the fish. The
blue cat was taken to the Straatmann Feed Store in nearby New Melle,
the nearest state-certified weighing scale.
“When the weigh master started pushing the sliding weights up the
scale, he got past 100 pounds and just kept going,” Peper
remembered. “When the scale finally balanced out at 130 pounds, we
were in shock. It was amazing.”
The final official stats on Bernal’s blue cat were:
* Weight: 130-pounds
* Length: 57-inches
* Girth: 45-inches.
* Fisheries biologists estimate its age at 20-30 years.
The monster cat easily displaced the previous Missouri state record
— a 103-pounder landed in 1991 — allowing Peper to officially
certify Bernal’s catch as the new Missouri state record blue catfish
caught on pole and line.
The lunker also bested the 124-pound standing world record blue cat
— caught in May 2005 from the Mississippi River near Alton — by 6
pounds, making Bernal’s fish the new world record, pending official
Peper completed the world-record application for Bernal to have
notarized and submit to the International Game Fish Association, the
organization responsible for declaring the fish’s official status.
Bernal and Momphard returned to the Conservation Department office
where they were greeted by a flurry of news media.
As a Fisheries Biologist, Peper sees Bernal’s prize as good news for
all Show-Me State anglers.
“The fact that this fish, and the standing world record blue
catfish, were both caught near the same area goes to show the kind
of world-class fishing we have in Missouri,” she noted.
But to Bernal, it comes down to something more visceral.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said. “Man, you hit a big fish down
there and he just starts rippin’ drag off... It’s like, oh my gosh!”
As for Momphard, “I told him, the bigger ones, I’ll just hand the
pole to you.”