North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

A Tale of Two Blue Catfish State Records - In His Own Words

Author: NCWRC blogger/Thursday, January 21, 2016/Categories: Blog, Fishing

If you love to fish or simply keep up with fishing-related news stories, then you’ve likely heard about Zakk Royce. Zakk is the Murfreesboro angler who caught not one but two state record blue catfishes in a 24-hour period in December in Lake Gaston.  The first fish Zakk caught weighed 91 pounds; the second 105 pounds. Incredibly, he released both fish alive so that other anglers, perhaps Zakk himself, could experience the opportunity of reeling in a monster fish.

While various news media reported the amazing feat, we have the story in Zakk’s own words below.

Also, check out this cool video of the catches here, courtesy of Zakk and his father, Jon Royce.

“I started out Sunday morning catching fish up to 30 pounds as soon as I started fishing. About an hour or two into fishing that morning suddenly my rod off the port side of my boat bent completely over. I grabbed the fishing rod and knew it was biggest fish immediately. 20 minutes or so later I had what ended up being a certified 91-pound blue catfish beside my boat and into my landing net. Problem was being alone, I couldn't lift it into the boat, so I called for help from a friend of mine who was fishing in his kayak a couple miles away. He paddled his way to me and helped me lift the fish on board at that point.

Because it was Sunday I could not get in touch with a state biologist or get the fish to certified scales. With the help of my friends and my father who drove over to the lake once I told them the news, we managed to babysit the fish all night in a special custom-built tournament live well, pumping fresh water every hour into the tank and keep the fish alive.

Monday morning a biologist from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission came to meet me at the certified scales 5 miles from the boat ramp. The fish was then certified at 91 pounds for an official North Carolina freshwater fish state record. We then rushed back and released the fish in the area where I caught it. I told my dad we should fish a little more while we were out there.

We then caught a couple of smaller fish. With about a minute left before we were going to pack up and go home, the rod off the exact same side of the boat as where I caught the 91 pounder, bent over immensely. When I grabbed it I simply could not believe what I felt on the other end — it compares to Goliath groupers I've caught saltwater fishing. At one point I actually thought the fish was going to spool me it was stripping so much line off my reel.

Finally, after around a half hour, I had the fish beside the boat. The problem we faced now was it would not fit in the net. With a 55-¾ inch length and 41-inch girth there wasn't much we could do. Somehow we basically cradled the fish long enough hanging out of the net to get it in the boat. I knew it was over a 100 pounds and it maxed out my 100 pound spring scale. Luckily, this time I could get the certifying process over very quickly. The fish tipped the official scales at 105 pounds and, therefore had just broken the previous 91 pound record I had just released! After we took quick photos, the fish was taken back out and released as the other one was.

One nice other bonus is because I was using the brand called big cat fever rods and wearing their clothing, I also received the $15,000 prize from them for breaking the state record. Simply unbelievable all the way around for me, and memories I will never forget. The best part of all was releasing these magnificent creatures back into the lake to grow and get bigger. 

Zakk Royce


Zakk Royce is an avid catfish angler, with years of experience fishing for and catching large blue catfish. He will be teaching a free workshop, “Fishing for Giant Blue Cats in North Carolina Reservoirs” at the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center in Fayetteville. Be sure to check our website frequently for more information on this upcoming workshop, include dates, times and an agenda.


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