KATIE LANDECK News Herald Reporter @PCNHKatieL

Like almost every morning since he retired, Joel Singletary rose just before the sun on April 11 to putter down the river on his boat and check the trot lines he baited the day before.

But on that day, something never recorded before in Florida was waiting for him at the end of his line — a 121-pound blue catfish.

“I was shocked. I didn’t think I could get him in the boat,” Singletary said. “The adrenaline took over.”

Sitting on the his live well, he propped both legs against the side of the boat and heaved the monstrous fish from the Choctawhatchee River. Back at his house, he rigged up a system of pulleys to yank the cat from the boat. When it finally hung from the rafters of boat dock cover, the fish’s tail still touched the ground.

“To see something like that, how could you not be impressed?” said Chris Paxton, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologist who certified the official weight. “It’s an enormous animal.”

Because it was caught on a trot line, a weighted fishing line with several hooks that is left underwater for a period of time, the catfish will not be an official Florida state record, as record fish must be caught on rod and reel.

But, if it had been reeled in, it would have smashed the current record: a 69.5-pound blue also caught in the Choctawhatchee.

Big fish

While a fish like Singletary’s has never been documented in Florida, Paxton and Matt Davis, who runs the Facebook page North Florida Catfishing, have long suspected the deep pots of the Choctawhatchee, as well as the Apalachicola river and maybe even the Chattahoochee, hid a monster.

It was only a matter of time.


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