MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — As of now three records have been broken by anglers at CJ Strike Reservoir on the Snake River south of Mountain Home this summer.
We highlighted Paul Newman's record breaking catfish he caught, but this 42.5 inch fish turned out not to be a channel catfish after biologists with the Idaho Fish and Game analyzed the photo.
"Blue catfish are actually pretty rare in Idaho, they are not native to the state and the only catfish Idaho Fish and Game stocks in Idaho is the channel catfish," said Idaho Fish and Game biologist Martin Koenig.
Newman's 37 pound catch represents the first state record for blue catfish, but the anglers caught and released the fish making it more difficult to identify.
"Yeah, apparently they are hard to tell apart," laughed Koenig.
Koenig told us blue catfish and channel catfish look similar especially the older and bigger they get, he says the best way to tell the difference is the anal fin.
"A channel catfish has a nice rounded edge all the way around from the front into the back and it is a little bit shorter," said Koenig. "However, a blue catfish has a much more squared off edge to its anal fin, it is a little bit longer and it is about 30 to 36 fin rays where as a channel catfish is in the 24 to 30 fin ray length."
But how this fish got into CJ Strike remains a mystery, Idaho Fish and Game stocking records only show blue catfish being stocked in 1945 and 1986 making it unlikely this fish came from that stock, Koenig believes the fish may have got mixed in with the commercial catfish producers near Hagerman or their own stock.
"We get our catfish from the same sources so it is possible that there was a blue catfish mixed in with those original stocked fish that are coming from these producers in the southeast," said Koenig. "But it is super hard to tell so the origin of that fish is pretty uncertain."
But it means that Newman now holds the record for the biggest blue catfish caught in Idaho and the weight record for the biggest channel catfish goes back to Cody Kastner who caught a 32.9 pound fish earlier this summer at CJ Strike Reservoir.
On August 5, the same day we were out fishing for white sturgeon, Greg and Angie Poulsen of Eagle Mountain, Utah broke another record at CJ Strike Reservoir reeling in a 10.4 foot sturgeon.
"CJ Strike Reservoir is typically known for abundant croppy fishing and really great small and large mouth bass fishing," said Koenig. "Catfish have always been there and I think it is starting to get a little more acknowledgment as an excellent cat fishery, it’s also a really good sturgeon fishery, so CJ Strike is really just a special place to have both near Twin Falls and Boise because it is such a prolific fishery in a lot of different fronts."
We also asked Koenig how this summer stacks up against other years in terms of records, he told us there were dozens of records broken across the state in 2020 and that makes us wonder when anglers will catch the next record breaking fish.