An Oregon man was fishing in Maryland's Potomac River waters and caught a huge blue catfish, its size was a record-setter in the state.
Wildlife specialists are concerned though, not due to the size of the catfish, but because it is not native to the region and is considered an invasive species.
Ed Jones was fishing on the Potomac River with his guide, Captain Josh Fitchett, of Montpelier, Va. On August 13 when he caught the massive fish. Jones and Fitchett kept the fish alive and took it in to be weighed. Officials at the Fort Washington Marina weighed and measured the blue catfish and found it was a record-setting 84-pounds, and measured 52 inches long, with a girth of 36.5 inches.
According to the Washington Post, wildlife specialists are concerned because the fish, native of the Mississippi Valley, are said to be a "serious threat" to native species in the local waters.
“While fisheries scientists and managers recognize the enthusiasm and economic impact of anglers in search of record catfish,” said Tom O’Connell, the director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries service, “we don’t want to encourage the development and spread of this species.”
After Jones and Fitchett brought the fish to be weighed and certified, the 84-pounder was tagged and returned back to where it was caught so researchers can track it for a study on invasive species that is being conducted by Maryland and Virginia fisheries biologists.
Anglers who catch any tagged fish and report it to authorities would help complete this study. For their efforts, they'll receive a commemorative Catfish Program hat and pin, said DNR.
"Anglers should know that it is illegal to transport live blue and flathead catfish for the purpose of introduction into another body of water," DNR wrote in the press release "Additionally, DNR officials are asking anglers to remove and kill any blue and flathead catfish that they catch. This is a fishery where the practice of catch and release is discouraged by resource managers."
This is not the first time such a big fish was caught in this section in Maryland. Earlier this year, Shawn Wetzel, of Pennsylvania caught a fish of comparable size, setting the most recent record before Jones' catch. Wetzel's blue catfish was 80-pounds; also caught in the Potomac River near Fort Washington
Blue catfish were introduced to the James and Rappahannock Rivers back in the 1970s and over time have reproduced and spread to Potomac waters.
In 2011, an even bigger "monster" blue catfish, at a whopping 143-pounds was caught in Virginia waters near the North Carolina border.
Last spring, Digital Journal reported another record breaking catch of an invasive species in the Maryland/Virginia region. The fish caught was the snakehead fish, a fish that has caused controversy both in the U.S. and Canada.