An Indiana man broke the Wisconsin state record for the largest catfish caught with a bow and arrow while fishing the Wisconsin River in Wisconsin Dells.
Bedford, Indiana resident Robert Way was bowfishing with Redbeard Bowfishing on June 19 when he harvested the fish. He weighed 23 pounds, 3 ounces and was 38.5 inches tall, according to Dennis Mitchell, owner of Redbeard Bowfishing of Wisconsin Dells.
The Department of Natural Resources confirmed the new state record on July 19. The new record broke another state record set 22 hours earlier when an 11-pound fish was shot at 12:30 p.m. on June 19, according to DNR public information officer Molly Meister. The 23-pound catfish was shot at 10:30 p.m. on June 19.
The previous record prior to this submission was a catch of six pounds, 2.6 ounces at Lake Tichigan in Racine County in August 2020, according to the DNR website. The DNR website also states that river catfish can reach a maximum of around 30 inches and 15 pounds, although 20 to 25 inch river catfish are more common.
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Mitchell and guide Brent Fermanich submitted the information with the help of Way to the Department of Natural Resources to see if it was a record catch, according to Mitchell. Way was not interested in commenting on the story.
Fermanich said the fish came out of a dark corner next to the boat and heard it going in and out of the water. Way aimed, fired and rolled it up.
“Right away he got a good shot on it and got it back alongside the boat,” Fermanich said.
Fermanich said it took himself and Way’s son, Gage, to pull him out of the water. Fermanich said the fish was heavy and he was surprised by its size.
“It was crazy,” Fermanich said. “I’ve never seen such a big catfish.”
“The pictures don’t even do it justice, the fish is so big,” Mitchell said. The two said they didn’t know it was a state record at the time, but Mitchell had a feeling it could eventually be one for the record books.
“We’re so excited,” Mitchell said. He added that the excitement was still with him a month after catching the fish.
According to the DNR website, bowfishing can only be done on certain species of fish, such as channel catfish and flathead catfish. The lower Wisconsin River from the Prairie du Sac Dam to the US Highway 12 bridge experiences a bow/crossover season from May 2 through November 30.
Mitchell, who also owns Asgard Ax Throwing and Asgard Underworld Arcade Bar in Wisconsin Dells, said those who take a charter with the bow fishing company can see many different animals along the Wisconsin River, such as otters. , softshells and snapping turtles. However, an official state record fish is a first for the company.
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“You don’t usually see big catfish while bowfishing,” Mitchell said. “They’re out there, but to see them this big is a very, very unique thing.”
Mitchell said the first step in submitting the information to the DNR to confirm if the catch met record status and make it official was to find a grocery store or meat market to weigh and measure the fish. Second, an MRN keeper had to check the fish.
“It was quite a task but 100% worth it,” Mitchell said. “We helped this guy get the state record.”
Mitchell said being part of the record catch was “fantastic”, but it also shows that the unexpected can happen on a bowfish round.
“You never know what you’re going to encounter there,” Mitchell said. “There are some really big fish and this probably won’t be the last record we hopefully get with the amount of river we cover and the time we spend there. We are very busy this season. It was crazy. It’s very exciting.”
Depending on the height of the river, tours normally start in downtown Wisconsin Dells going north of Kilbourn Dam to Catfish Bay, Mitchell said. Redbeard Bowfishing will operate for the season until the end of October, weather permitting, he said.
Additional information can be found at www.redbeardbowfishing.com or the Redbeard Bow Fishing Tours Facebook page.
Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.