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River Monster: Virginia Man Beats 25-Year-Old State Record, Catches Unbelievable Catfish

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A fisherman from Virginia made a catch of a lifetime Saturday at Lake Smith in Virginia Beach.

While fishing with a friend that morning, Jeffery Dill felt a tug on his $20 Walmart fishing rod.

After 15 minutes of fighting the fish, he pulled out a flathead catfish weighing 68 pounds, two more pounds than current record holder of 25 years.

“I put him on the dock, held him down for a minute. He was so big,” Dill told WAVY. 

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Dill took his prize, which he named “Big Earle”, to the Oceans East Bait and Tackle to be weighed and measured. Chad Boyce, a fish biologist from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, met Dill to watch the weigh-in.

“It was a true river monster,” Boyce told WAVY. “It was a big fish that you don’t expect to see in this part of the state, especially in Lake Smith. That’s definitely a trophy.”

Boyce said the flathead catfish were first introduced to Lake Smith in the late 1990s to help control the population of smaller fish. He calls the catfish “an ambush predator.”

By inspecting the bone of the fish’s ear under a microscope, Boyce will be able to determine the age of “Big Earle.”

Have you ever seen a catfish as big as this?

“It’s like rings on a tree,” he said. “I would almost bet that fish was one of the original fish that was stocked.”

According to NAVY, Dill fried up the fish for a Memorial Day barbecue. So there’s not going to be a stuffed trophy, but Dill will always have the memory.

“I talked with some of my older buddies and they said some people fish their whole lives and never get close to a state record,” he said. “It’s a big deal. I’m very proud.”

The State Record Fish Committee will review Dill’s application and decide whether “Big Earle” is the new record breaker.

“I’m waiting on that confirmation, when they send me the plaque,” Dill told NAVY. “But I got it. No matter what, I got it.”

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Lake Smith covers about 193 acres, but measures only about 5 feet deep. It’s a popular fishing spot due to its largemouth bass — some of them trophy size.

“There are opportunities to catch a citation,” the Virginia DGIF states. “The lake also has white catfish, crappie, white perch, bluegill, and flathead catfish.”

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Allison Kofol is an editorial intern for The Western Journal. She is a student at Grove City College and will receive her Bachelor's Degree in Communication next year.
Allison Kofol is an editorial intern for The Western Journal. She is a student at Grove City College and will receive her Bachelor's Degree in Communication next year. In her spare time, she sings, writes music, crochets, and eats Chick-fil-A. She also loves to spend time at a local jail, where she leads Bible studies with incarcerated women.
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