Boy, grandpa share Montana catfish record

MALTA. Mont. — A pair of anglers here caught a state-record catfish in Nelson Reservoir, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said.

Nine-year-old Eli Waters and his grandfather, Jim Jones, reeled in a channel catfish weighing 29.71 pounds on May 28, FWP said in a news release.

That's more than 2½ pounds heavier than the previous state record, set in 1998 on Castle Rock Lake near Colstrip.

The official length of the Malta catfish was 38.75 inches, FWP said.

Eli said he knew it was no ordinary fish when he set the hook.

"Line started just screaming out of his reel,'" Jones said. "He just couldn't turn the fish, and he was afraid that he was going to lose it. So I tightened down the drag and managed to stop the fish, but it stripped the gears on the reel.

"It took almost 20 minutes before we got the fish close enough to shore to get a look at it."

Mark Sullivan, the local FWP wildlife biologist, met the two at Bestway Foods in Malta to weigh the fish. The record was officially certified last week.

Both anglers had a hand in landing the catfish, so Eli and his granddad will share the state record, FWP said.

Bill Wiedenheft, regional fisheries manager for FWP, said he was surprised about the catch, because channel catfish haven't been stocked in Nelson Reservoir in well more than a decade.

However, he said he's heard periodic reports of anglers catching them there.

"Nelson's water comes from the Milk River via an aqueduct, so any fish that are in the Milk can show up in Nelson," he said.

"We have a good population of catfish in the Milk, and Nelson Reservoir grows large walleye and pike, so it makes sense it could also grow large catfish."