Jimmy Holbrook of Gibson, Ga., was fishing alone on Jan. 2 when he scored the fish of a lifetime, a 90-pound blue catfish from Lake Moultrie that he later was able to release alive.

Holbrook was pre-fishing for a catfish on which he had promised to take his in-laws when the big blue hit. At first blush, after hauling it over the side of his boat, he thought it might challenge the state record, so he stuffed what he could of the fish’s head into a cooler and headed to Hill’s Landing to find a set of scales.

“I called (S.C. Department of Natural Resources) on my way in, and an officer met me at the landing,” Holbrook said. “We used the scales at Hill’s and the fish weighed right at 90 pounds. It wasn’t the record, but I didn’t want to kill the fish, so we kept it in the bait tank at Hill’s overnight to make sure it would survive, then released it the next morning.”

South Carolina’s record blue catfish is a 109-pound, 4-ounce specimen caught from the Santee Cooper tailrace canal in 1991 by George Lijewski of Summerville.

The evening his fish hit, Holbrook said he wanted to set up a drift but there was no wind, so he used his outboard motor to back-troll. Using pieces of cut gizzard shad and white perch on Santee drift rigs, Holbrook had caught several fish that ranged from 10 to 30 pounds along a flat in 35 to 45 feet of water. He had just come unbuttoned from what he believed was another really big catfish when another rod bent over, signaling his luck had not run out.

“I had 5 poles out, and the fish hit on the right side and went left, I had to fight him through the other four rods and ended up landing him on the other side of the boat,” said Holbrook. “It took me between 10 and 15 minutes to get the fish worn down so I could try to get him in the boat.”

Holbrook regularly fishes the Santee Cooper lakes as a member of the Carolina Catfish Club and on the Cabela’s King Cat tournament trail. He won the Spring Fling tournament on Santee last spring, and this fish was the best of his catfishing career.

“It was real important to me to release this fish,” he said. “She was real healthy, and I see no reason why in another couple of years this fish couldn’t be the new state record.”