The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is in the process of certifying as a new state record a 12-pound, 2.9-ounce white catfish caught June 23 by Charles Earp of West Columbia.

According to SCDNR, Earp was on an overnight trip, fishing off of Spence’s Point, when the record fish hit a treble-hooked sponge slathered with Sonny’s Super Sticky Catfish dip bait around 3 a.m. Earp was fishing in 6 to 8 feet of water at the time of the catch.

The state record was weighed on a set of registered, digital scales at Old Timey Meat Market off Airport Rd in Columbia. Ron Ahle, a fisheries biologist with SCDNR, is processing the paperwork to have the fish entered as the new state record for white catfish; Ahle said he and Leo Rose, SCDNR’s hatcheries coordinator, both viewed the fish to confirm its identity.

“The fish was easily identifiable as a white catfish by its head and several characteristics we use to distinguish one catfish from the other,” Ahle said. “A white catfish has a forked tail like a channel and a blue catfish, but the fork is very shallow, very typical for a white catfish, which is the largest member of the bullhead family of catfish.”

Ahle said he isn’t surprised by the news of the catch, which eclipsed a 9-pound, 15-ounce fish caught out of Lake Murray in 1986 by Jim Schwietert of Spartanburg bu more than 2 pounds. Ahle said the number of big white catfish in Lake Murray is on the rise.

“We have been seeing a substantial increase in the size white catfish in this lake from our surveys,” Ahle said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see another record white catfish or a state-record white perch come out of this lake, because I know they are in here.”

Ahle said that SCDNR is in the process of submitting the paperwork for the record, as well as working with Earp to provide him with a mount of the fish and a duplicate replica that will be available for public review at SCDNR headquarters in Columbia. State-record fish replicas will also be on display at the Palmetto Sportsman Classic held in March each year at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia.