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Ray Sasser/DMN

World record 54.5 pound fish caught by 10-year old Dallas native Dylan Smith

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Ray Sasser, Outdoor Writer

A 54 1/2-pound Lake Tawakoni blue catfish caught by 10-year-old Dylan Smith is a pending International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Small Fry (anglers 10 or younger) world record.

The young Dallas angler, a fourth-grader at Armstrong Elementary, weighs 75 pounds. According to Lake Tawakoni fishing guide Michael Littlejohn, it took Dylan about 15 minutes to bring the big blue to the net on a cold and blustery Jan. 29 day. Dylan was fishing with his father, Chris Smith, and Littlejohn.

IGFA's existing Small Fry record for a blue catfish caught by a male angler is a Virginia fish that weighed 48 pounds, nine ounces. Dylan's catfish was weighed on certified scales, then returned to the waters of Tawakoni, a lake long known as an outstanding catfish fishery.

The pending record fish was one of nine catfish over 30 pounds that the anglers caught on Jan. 29, said Littlejohn. Dylan caught eight of them.

"We've had a record season for big fish," said Littlejohn, whose wife, Teri, is also a fishing guide. The couple employ two other guides.

"Since Dec. 10, our clients have caught 197 fish bigger than 30 pounds apiece. The biggest, caught by John Holder of Weatherford, weighed 74 pounds. Three of our four boats have landed blues in the 70-pound-class."

"The water temperature never got to the low 40s, which we would have liked, but the two Arctic cold fronts in January were enough to get the fish feeding."

Lake Tawakoni catfish made a national splash in 2013 when brothers Dan and Paul Miles won a Cabela's King Kat Tournament Trail event with a record catch of five blue catfish that totaled 239 1/2 pounds. They didn't exactly run away with the top prize. Two other teams had catches weighing more than 200 pounds.

For a while, Dan Miles held the lake record for blues with an 82.35-pounder, a mark that was broken in 2014 when Jody Jenkins of Wichita Falls caught an 87 1/2-pounder. Jenkins was fishing with Littlejohn.

Texas also keeps junior fish records for anglers 16 and younger. Cody Miles holds the Tawakoni junior record with a fish that weighed 58 1/2 pounds. Cody Miles is Dan Miles' grandson.

The state-record blue cat caught by a junior angler weighed 66.20 pounds. It was caught at Lake Worth by Lane Ferguson, son of Dallas-area fishing guide Chad Ferguson, who has his own catfishing website.

This year's King Kat tournament is Saturday, with the weigh-in beginning 4 p.m. at West Tawakoni City Park Boat Ramp, 1208 E. Highway 276. Only live fish will be weighed in at this tournament, and all fish are released after the weigh-in.

Entries are open until 7 p.m. Friday. Details and rules are available at kingkatusa.com or by calling 502-384-5924.

Catfish tournament pros and catfishing guides have become increasingly sophisticated in their techniques. Most of the pros now use side-imaging sonar to locate big fish. They then try to tempt the big ones with natural bait, usually fresh-cut shad.

Catfish are common fare on restaurant menus, but the fish eaten in restaurants are the smaller channel catfish. Most modern fishermen who target big cats practice catch and release fishing. Growth rates different slightly from one lake to another, but a 30-pound blue catfish is about 15 years old and a 70-pounder may be 25 to 30 years old.

The Texas record, and former world record, for a blue catfish is 121 1/2 pounds, caught in January 2004. That fish was caught by Cody Mullenix while fishing from the bank at Lake Texoma.

Aside from alligator gar and sturgeon, blue catfish are the largest North American freshwater game fish. That's what makes fishing for blues so popular, Littlejohn said.

"Everyone who fishes wants to catch a big fish," he said. "It's amazing how many people travel from all over the country to catch a big blue catfish."

Calendar

Saturday, March 4: Cabela's King Kat catfish tournament at Lake Tawakoni with weigh-in beginning 3 p.m. at West Tawakoni City Park boat ramp, 1208 East Hwy. 276. Registration and other details at kingkatusa.com or call 502-384-5924.

Saturday, March 11-Sunday, March 12: Texas Fly Fishing and Brew Festival at Plano Centre with indoor and outdoor attractions. Details at txflyfishingfestival.org.

Friday, March 24-Sunday March 26: Bassmaster Classic championship tournament at Lake Conroe.

Saturday, March 25-Sunday, March 26: 34th Annual KCKL 95.9 FM Big Bass Tournament at Cedar Creek Lake. Entry forms and details at kcklbass.com or call 903-489-1346.

Saturday, March 11-Sunday, March 12: Early youth spring turkey season in the South Zone.

Saturday, March 18: Spring turkey season begins in South Zone. Consult regulations booklet for county details.

Saturday, March 25-Sunday, March 26: Early youth spring turkey season in the North Zone.

Saturday, April 1: Spring turkey season begins in the North Zone. Consult regulations booklet for county details.

Saturday, April 1: Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation Annual Rendezvous of the Guardians Banquet and Fundraiser, 5:45 p.m. at Westin Galleria, 13350 Dallas Parkway. Details at GoOTF.com.