Aurora, Colorado - A 20-year-old Aurora woman became
Colorado's newest fishing state-record holder after landing a
43-pound channel catfish at Aurora Reservoir on Oct. 4. The mammoth
fish, caught by Jessica Walton, is the largest channel catfish ever
caught in Colorado and the third consecutive state record taken from
the Front Range reservoir in 15 months.
Walton caught the enormous fish at 6 p.m. using a night crawler, egg
sinker and 20-pound test line. A novice angler who had landed just
two fish in her life prior to her record catfish, Walton admits she
was overwhelmed and "shocked" by her achievement.
"When I first picked up the rod and started reeling I thought I was
snagged on a rock," said Walton. "I pulled again and that's when the
fish just took off. I reeled some more and the fish came towards the
surface--that's when we saw how big it was and I just started
After 10 minutes of careful give-and-take, Walton landed her prize
catch with the help of her boyfriend's parents, John and Eva Clark.
The catfish measured 40 1/2 inches in length, boasted a 28 5/8-inch
girth and tipped the scales at 43 pounds, 6 ounces--more than 7
pounds heavier than the previous 35-pound, 8-ounce record caught by
Daris McKinnon at Aurora Reservoir on June 28, 2010.
Walton's fish is the latest in a trio of state-record channel catfish
taken from the now-famous metro area fishery. Prior to Walton's and
McKinnon's records, Aurora resident
Mike Stone landed a
35-pound catfish from the reservoir on July 26, 2009, breaking a
longstanding 15-year state record set by John McKeever at Hertha
Reservoir in 1994.
DOW aquatic biologists say the recent succession of record fish from
the fertile, urban impoundment is no coincidence.
"Aurora Reservoir has ideal forage conditions to produce very large
fish," said Paul Winkle, DOW aquatic biologist who manages the
fishery. "There's an outstanding population of crayfish and yellow
perch, which provides an excellent food source for fish to grow to
Known primarily as "bottom-feeders" that scavenge muddy lake bottoms
for food, channel catfish become adept predators when they grow to
"When catfish get big they will eat everything in sight," said
Winkle. "This means they will go after fish, crayfish and other
aquatic organisms. This predator behavior and voracious appetite
allows large cats to grow even bigger."
In the last decade, the DOW has stocked more than 135,000 fish at
Aurora Reservoir, including trout, bass, catfish, walleye and wiper,
helping to establish the 640-acre reservoir as one of the state's
most popular fisheries. The DOW began stocking channel catfish in the
reservoir in the early 1990s, and biologists speculate that Walton's
record fish may have been one of those planted nearly 20 years ago.
"Based on the fish's length, we estimate its age to be around the 15-
to 18-year mark," said Winkle. "Therefore, it's very likely that this
fish is close to the same age as the angler who caught it."
Although not present when Walton caught her catfish, Walton credits
her boyfriend Chris for supporting her budding angling interests.
"I have to admit, Chris was pretty upset at first when he heard that
I was the one who caught the state record because he puts so much
time into fishing and it's his favorite thing to do," said Walton.
"But he's also happy for me because he's the one who taught me how to
fish. Before I met him, I was the typical 'girly-girl' who was afraid
to put the worm on my hook."
Walton says that she hasn't decided what to do with her trophy fish
but is considering getting it mounted to preserve the memory of her
The DOW added the record channel catfish to the Colorado State
Fishing Records and issued Walton a Master Angler award certificate
and patch, recognizing her outstanding accomplishment.
"We want to congratulate Jessica for her record-setting fish," said
Greg Gerlich, DOW fisheries chief. "It's always exciting when someone
breaks a state record but even more so when it's someone who's new to
fishing. This is a great example of how anyone, regardless of
experience, can have a tremendous day fishing with their friends or