- Last Updated on 07:45 AM 03/21/11
- BY Paula I. Bryant
On a day when South Boston veteran angler Tony Milam says he wasn’t “real serious” about fishing, he nonchalantly reeled in the biggest blue catfish ever caught on record in Virginia — a 109-pound whopper that sent wildlife biologists and fishermen from near and far into a frenzy.
Fishing with his buddy and “fifth child,” Michael “Chubbs” Reeves, the pair set off on Buggs Island early Thursday morning with intentions to stay on the water only a couple of hours because chores at home and other responsibilities were calling.
It was around 9:30 at the section of the lake where the Dan and Staunton Rivers run together that Milam said he got the surprise of his life.
Fishing with shad and using an Ambassador reel with 30-pound test line on an Ugly Stick fishing rod, Milam said he landed what he knew was a big fish.
“I have caught some big catfish,” he said, “but we didn’t know how big it was. We just didn’t know until we got it in the net.”
Prior to Thursday’s catch, Milam boasted his biggest catch as a 68-pound catfish, also caught in the vicinity of Thursday’s state record-setting catch.
Dubbed “Lucille” by the family, the 109-pound blue catfish put up a hard fight for about 10 to 15 minutes, he said.
After getting it to the boat, Milam and Reeves realized they were no match for the catch and called for help from fishing buddies in a nearby boat.
Shane Farrar and Van Hughes were only too glad to be a part of the historic moment when along with the help of Reeves, they pulled 109-pound Lucille into Reeves’ new boat — officially christened with a record catch on its second time in the water.
“Chubbs tried to weigh it with a set of 75 pound scales, and it wouldn’t do it,” Milam said. “Then Van brought over his 100 pound scales, and they bottomed out.”
“We knew then we had brought the record back to Buggs Island,” Milam said referring to the former record holding blue catfish that weighed 102.4 pounds caught in the James River.
“I was sitting there holding the net with the fish in the water, and Shane was putting it on Facebook. Then he was on the phone calling the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries,” Milam said.
“They wanted to know if we could keep it alive until they got there, and I said yeah.”
He noted they only took the fish out of the water three times in an effort to keep it alive.
A game biologist met the new record holding fisherman, and they went to Mecklenburg Farm Supply where Lucille was officially weighed on certified scales.
“We transported it using a 200-gallon cattle tank,” Milam explained.
In the meantime, his fellow fishing buddy, Shane, was on the phone to Bass Pro Shops lining up a home for the huge catch.
“He asked me if I wanted to donate my fish to Bass Pro, and I said yeah. In a minute I was on the phone talking to Bass Pro Shops, and a woman said we’re on the way from Richmond.”
Bass Pro officials met Milam and his prized catch around 2:30 p.m. at Staunton View Boat Ramp where by that time the word had spread of the record catch.
“They put it in a tank with oxygen, and took it to Missouri where it will be in quarantine for 30 days,” Milam said. “Then the plan is to put it on display at the Bass Pro Shops in Richmond.”
“They’re going to have a big promotion day for Lucille and Tony,” said Milam’s wife, Dawn.
Bass Pro has been in constant contact with Milam since Thursday updating him on Lucille’s condition.
“It’s doing good and is in a better facility where she’s getting constant care. They have biologists constantly looking in on it,” he added.
Not letting the excitement deter his faithfulness to the sport, Milam and partner Gator Jones entered the Catfish Showdown at Buggs Island Lake on Saturday.
“I fished for nine hours and only caught one fish — a six-pounder,” he said.
But he was the talk of the tournament, and tourney host Warren Weston recognized Milam as the new state record blue catfish record-holder.
“I had people shaking my hand. I believe that word of my catch made a lot of people go fishing this weekend,” Milam said.
Weston, who runs Weston’s Store on Route 92 in Red Oak, has the previous 92-pound Buggs Island record blue catfish on display at his store.
“We weren’t real serious that day, and we had said we weren’t going to fish long…just for a little while,” he reiterated.
Wonder what the day is like when Milam and fishing buddies get serious?