Illinois hunting and fishing

Joe Ludtke and guide Mike Mitchell hold Ludtke’s blue catfish weighing over 102 pounds caught during a trip to Wheeler Lake in Alabama. Photo courtesy of Joe Ludtke.

A clash with a monster catfish

February 13, 2010 at 04:31 PM

Joe Ludtke says the experience was sort like hooking a small car.

But Ludtke is no repo man. He’s a catfish angler — and a good one.

“I’ve caught a lot of fish in my life and just immediately I knew it was huge,” says Ludtke of a blue catfish he landed that weighed just over 102 pounds.

“It was almost like driving a car,” Ludtke says. “You know when you have a fish on the line how you can feel its head move? Well, I felt the whole front end move.”

Ludtke was fishing Wheeler Lake in Alabama on Feb. 5 with Jerry Cline, Josh Cline and guide Mike Mitchell.

“I told everybody in the boat it’s a monster,” Ludtke says.

The world record catfish was caught in the Mississippi River near Alton in 2005 and weighed 124 pounds.

Ludtke says he thought his fish decided it didn’t want to be caught there would be nothing he could do.

“I applied as much pressure as I could, but he moved when he was ready to move,” he says. “I thought to myself several times that my arms would give out.”

But when it rains blue catfish it pours.

The group landed eight blue catfish weighing 420 pounds.

Ludtke says the trip to test some new equipment and pursue blue catfish was supported by a sponsorship from The Boat Dock in Springfield.

“They help us out, which allows us to fish more tournaments and take trips like this,” he says.

Local catfish anglers, together with city and state officials, have been working to establish a blue catfish fishery in Lake Springfield.

Blue catfish are native to large river systems and can grow very large.

Ludtke says the Tennessee River Valley is known for producing big fish.

He’s still looking over video shot of the catch trying to see if it is marketable to outdoors television shows.

“It’s the largest blue catfish ever caught on video,” he says. “It’s not in high definition, though — probably good enough quality for the Web.

“It’s great for memory’s sake.”