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Colorado angler lands new state record channel catfish: 43 pounds, 6 ounces

October 11, 2010 | 12:53 pm


A 20-year-old is Colorado's newest fishing state record holder after landing a 43-pound, 6-ounce channel catfish estimated to be about the same age as the angler who caught it.

Jessica Walton of Aurora, Colo., landed the lunker whiskerfish at Aurora Reservoir on Oct. 4. The scale-tipping fish is the largest channel catfish caught in Colorado and the third state record taken from the reservoir in 15 months.

A novice angler who had landed just two fish in her life prior to her record catfish, Watson told the Colorado Division of Wildlife that she was overwhelmed and "shocked" by her achievement.

"When I first picked up the rod and started reeling I thought I was snagged on a rock," said Walton, who was using a night crawler, egg sinker and 20-pound test line. "I pulled again and that's when the fish just took off. I reeled some more, and the fish came towards the surface -- that's when we saw how big it was and I just started shaking."

The fish measured 40 1/2-inches in length, with a 28 5/8-inch girth, and was more than 7 pounds heavier than the previous 35-pound, 8-ounce record fish, caught by Daris McKinnon at Aurora Reservoir on June 28. Prior to Walton's and McKinnon's records, Aurora resident Mike Stone landed a 35-pound catfish from the reservoir on July 26, 2009, breaking a 15-year state record set in 1994 by John McKeever at Hertha Reservoir.

"Based on the fish's length, we estimate its age to be around the 15- to 18-year mark," said Division of Wildlife aquatic biologist Paul Winkle, who manages the fishery. "Therefore, it's very likely that this fish is close to the same age as the angler who caught it."

Walton landed her prize catch after 10 minutes with the help of her boyfriend's parents, John and Eva Clark. Although he wasn't present when Walton caught her record fish, the angler credited her boyfriend, Chris, for supporting her interest in fishing.

"I have to admit, Chris was pretty upset at first when he heard that I was the one who caught the state record, because he puts so much time into fishing and it's his favorite thing to do," Walton said. "But he's also happy for me because he's the one who taught me how to fish. Before I met him, I was the typical 'girly-girl' who was afraid to put the worm on my hook."

Walton said she hasn't decided what to do with her record fish, but is considering getting it mounted to preserve the memory of her once-in-a-lifetime experience.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Jessica Walton and her state-record channel catfish. Credit: Colorado Division of Wildlife