The Santee Cooper reservoirs have long been known as an angler's paradise and the recent capture of the largest Lake Moultrie blue catfish ever observed only solidifies this reputation.
On Feb. 8, Leland Selph of Cross ran a trotline on Lake Moultrie and caught a blue catfish that tipped the scales at 136 pounds, 6 ounces and 56 inches in length. The fish would have surpassed the current 21-year-old state record of 109 pounds, 4 ounces had it been angled with a rod and reel.
Like most states, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources maintains records for fish caught on standard sport-fishing equipment and for several bow fished species. Regardless of the harvest method, it demonstrates the potential for world record size blue catfish that exists in the Santee Cooper system.
Native to the Mississippi River drainage, blue catfish were introduced in South Carolina in 1965 with an initial stocking of 180 subadults into Santee Cooper reservoir. They were first observed reproducing in 1967 and began to enter the sport fishery in the mid 1970s. Blue catfish have now become a major component of the reservoir's annual fish production and have become one of the top sport fishing targets.
South Carolina classifies blue catfish as a non-game fish, which means they may taken by any legal method of harvest. This includes trotlines, fish traps, bush hooks, bow fishing, as well as rod and reel. There is no daily limit for blue catfish and this encourages the high harvest levels that help minimize competition with native species and maintains optimal blue catfish growth rates.
In an effort to direct most of Santee Cooper's large blue catfish resource to rod-and-reel anglers, a limit of one fish per day greater than 36 inches, regardless of harvest method, was enacted in 2007.
Read about other South Carolina freshwater fish records at dnr.sc.gov/fish/freshrecs/records.html.