At 121 pounds, Texas-sized catfish rewrites record book

April 04, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

EDITOR'S NOTE: Staff writer Liz Maples tracked down this fish story recently on vacation in Texas.

ATHENS, Texas - The biggest blue catfish ever caught in America - and perhaps the world - has turned into quite a ham.

The 121-pound fat cat stars in a daily dive show in the 26,000-gallon theater aquarium at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries here, 75 miles south of Dallas. She made her first appearance when Cody Mullennix, of Howe, Texas, pulled her to the surface of Lake Texoma after a 30-minute fight.

It was Jan. 16, and Mullennix was fishing on the Texas side of the lake, a freshwater reservoir about 100 miles north of Dallas on the Texas-Oklahoma border. The 27-year-old angler was on the bank casting a surf rod with a 20-pound test line and baited with three-inch dead shad.


First he hooked a 56-pound blue cat, which would have been his personal best, according to Then "Splash" bit.

Kentucky record is 104 pounds

The Kentucky record belongs to Bruce Midkiff of Owensboro for a 104-pound cat he caught in the Ohio River. The previous Texas state record was close to that. At 121.5 pounds, Splash meets those record fish and exceeds it by the weight of at least one lazy house cat.

The world record for a blue catfish catch was previously held by Charles Ashley Jr. of Marion, Ark., who reeled in a 116-pound, 12-ounce fish from the Mississippi River.

Mullennix wrestled with the beauty for 30 minutes before he rolled her on to shore. He and his buddy had to lift the fish into the back of a pickup to be weighed. He was prepared to set her free and satisfied with his true fish tale, but a game warden asked him to donate the catfish to the fisheries center, so that others could see her.

Splash is as heavy as a decent field-dressed deer, and nearly five feet long. She glides through the tank as graceful as any dolphin.

At first she hid from the public behind the faux trees in the aquarium, but now after hundreds of school kids have tromped through to look at her, she has become a total ham. Splash swims close to the window and follows visitors when they walk back and forth.

She will be released

Texas Fisheries still plans to release Splash after she recovers and the water gets cooler. Meanwhile, visitors have flooded the fisheries center. As of March, attendance was up 6,000 from the same period last year.

Mullennix has received awards from Texas Freshwater Fisheries and the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. The International Game Fish Association is still working on certifying Splash as the largest blue cat caught in the world.

The notoriety has also caused some confusion. An Internet circular had a faux photograph of two men holding up a different variety of catfish caught in an Italian river. The picture and one of the true Splash has been posted at the Urban Legends Web site,

To see Splash in person, visit the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, 75 miles southeast of Dallas and four miles east of Athens on FM 2495. Attractions include 300,000 gallons of aquariums, daily dive show and on-site fishing.

For more information, visit and click on "fishing," or call the center at 903-676-2277.

Kentucky's top cats

The Kentucky catfish records on the books with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources:

* Blue catfish: 104 pounds, caught by Bruce Midkiff of Owensboro in the Ohio River in 1999.

* Channel catfish: 28.3 pounds; Hope Tinsley of Fort Worth, Texas, farm pond, 1994.

* Flathead catfish: 97 pounds; Esker Carroll; Green River, 1956.

* Bullhead catfish: 5 pounds, 3 ounces; Harry Case of Paris; Guist Creek Lake, 1992.

* White catfish: 1 pound, .78 ounces; Steve Daisey; Guist Creek Lake, 2002.

Complete state records are available at

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