Randy Stillwell was jigging for crappie on Lake Pueblo State Park after a fruitless day of fishing for walleye when something big hit his ¾-ounce slab spoon.
Suddenly, his fishing trip Sunday went from slow to heart-pounding as he spent the next 30 minutes or so working his medium jigging rod, trying to keep pressure on his 14-ounce test line and land the monster fish.
With the help of his fishing buddy, Bill Shumaker, they finally reeled in and netted a massive blue catfish that was documented by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Gretchen Holschuh as a state record catch measuring 38⅝ inches and weighing 29.132 pounds with a 25-inch girth.
“It was a thrill,” said Stillwell, 66, of Pueblo West. “Just the right place at the right time.”
It was about 2 p.m. Sunday when the catfish hit. It struck as Stillwell said he and Shumaker were about to head back to the marina.
“The walleye weren’t active and we were winding down when I decided to stop on a point off Skiers Cove and try for crappie I’d seen a couple days earlier,” Stillwell said, noting that he knows the lake well and fishes there up to five days a week.
“I don’t know why this catfish hit my spoon,” he said. “For whatever reason, he hit it and took off.
I was able to keep the pressure on him. It took a while to get him in.”
As soon as they got it in the boat, Shumaker declared it a record fish. A longtime CPW volunteer, Shumaker has experience with record catfish having landed one himself a few years ago. So they weighed it, photographed it and tried to release it back in the lake.. But he just didn’t want to go,” Stillwell said. “It was a thrill catching him. But I didn’t care about the record. I would have been happy to let him go and let someone else catch him.”
They worked almost as long trying to revive the catfish and release it as they did catching it.
“Nothing we did worked,” he said. “So we put him in the live well and took him to the hatchery to get him weighed and make it official.” How did he celebrate his state record catch?
“I went home and then I went fishing the next day,” he said. “I just like catching fish.”
Stillwell’s catch erases the previous record set in 2016 by Charlie Black, who caught a 35 ½ inch blue catfish at Lake Pueblo that weighed 24.48 pounds.
News of Stillwell’s big catch didn’t shock Josh Nehring, CPW’s senior aquatic biologist. He said Lake Pueblo is producing huge catfish of several species.