Donald Pope and his wife Lucille Pope reeled in two nice Catfish weighing 94 and 62 pounds on the Diversion Canal last week. Not only did they both set new personal records for themselves, but they also took home some money in the Big Fish Big Bucks Fishing Derby on Santee Cooper.

The Clemmons, N. C. couple like to vacation at the Santee Cooper lakes and fish for catfish with Donald’s brother Mike Pope each spring. They had signed up for the Santee Cooper Big Fish Big Bucks tournament, where anglers take home prizes for big fish caught and weighed in. In this tournament, multiple species have daily, weekly, and monthly prizes. 

The trio headed out around midnight of March 28th to get a jump on the competition. They were anchoring up and fishing with fresh cut herring in various places in the Diversion Canal in search of a big hungry catfish. After catching a few fish including a 40-pound catfish they were saving to weigh in, they moved in hopes of finding a bigger fish.

“We hadn’t dropped the lines in the water five minutes and we hooked up,” said Donald Pope. “I could tell we had a quality fish on by the weight at the end of the line.”  

After a 15-minute fight his brother Mike Pope was able to get the fishes head in the net. “The fish was so big that we could only fit his head in the net,” said Donald Pope. “It took both of us to lift it in the boat. It wore me out pretty good when it got in the current and didn’t want to come up for the net.”

They rushed the fish back to Canal Lakes Fish Camp (843-753-2271), where they weighed the big blue catfish in at 94.19 pounds. They took a few pictures, then released the fish back into the canal. Donald ended up winning not only the daily money prize, but also the weekly prize as well.

With hopes of landing another big catfish, the group headed out the next day to a different part of the canal and threw out some fresh cut herring. It didn’t take long to have a few fish in the 30- to 40-pound range in the boat. However, about an hour into the trip something a bit bigger bit one of their rods.

Lucille Pope snatched up that rod as the big catfish took her bait. 

“The fish swam toward the boat before going down to the bottom,” she said. “I just kept the pressure on it and kept reeling. I told my brother-in-law I didn’t think I could get it in.” 

After about a 15-minute fight, Mike Pope had the big blue catfish’s head secure in the net. They put the fish in the holding tank and made the journey back to Canal Lakes to weigh Lucille’s big catch. 

Her fish weighed 62.31 pounds and won the daily prize for the biggest catfish weighed in that day.  

Not only did the Pope’s both win a little money for their catches, but they both set new personal bests for themselves, and had a good time doing it.

“It’s nice to be able to win a little bit of money, but it’s even nicer to spend some time with the family out fishing on the water,” said Donald Pope.

Click here for more information about the Big Fish Big Bucks Fishing Derby on Santee Cooper.

Click here to post photos and a summary of your latest catfishing trip.