Mark Bollenburg of Bonneau Beach landed the biggest catfish caught in years on April 9 when he landed a 108.6-pound blue in the Tailrace Canal below Lake Moultrie.

       According to Scott Lamprecht, a biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the fish is not a state record, but a huge catfish in any regard.

       "The scales the fish were weighed on have been certified as being absolutely correct," Lamprecht said. "These scales actually weigh in tenths of a pound instead of pounds and ounces. The weight would be close to 108 pounds and nine pounces."

       Bollenburg's big catfish was caught in the Tailrace Canal, the same place where the blue catfish that holds the state record, a 109-pound, 4-ounce fish caught by George Lijewski of Summerville in 1991.

       Bollenburg, 22, said some of the best news is that with the help of friends, he was able to get the fish off the river and into a huge, water-filled cooler quickly. Then, he hustled the catfish to the fish hatchery in St. Stephens and into one of the tanks there. 

       "I had recently caught a 95-pound blue catfish and tried to keep it alive to donate it to an aquarium," Bollenburg said. "That fish died, but I learned a lot about he process of keeping one of these big fish alive, and this time it worked very well."

       Bollenburg was fishing a couple miles downstream from the dam in a deep hole. It's a place he's caught a number of big fish during the past three years.

       "I usually try to avoid the crowds which normally gang up closer to the dam," he said. "I get a bit further downriver, anchor up and fish an area that's about 16 to 20 feet deep. I was using 3-inch chunks of herring for bait.  My rigging is 30-pound test Bass Pro Shops Offshore Angler line, the reel is an ABU 6500, and I was using the Bass Pro shop Power Plus 7-foot rods. Also, a quality rodholder is essential for this type of fishing, and I use DriftMaster rodholders. When a big blue bites, they hit like a freight train."

       Bollenburg was fishing with 14-year old Bobby Jackson the night he caught the big fish.

      "I like having someone with me to help handle a big fish, it's difficult alone," Bollenburg said. "Bobby had a great night, too, (catching) two 70-pound blues that night, plus a 13.6-pound flathead. But when we got the big fish in and I measured it, I knew we had to leave immediately. It was several inches longer than the 95 pounder, and the girth on this fish was tremendous."

      Bollenburg's catfish was 59 inches long, four inches longer than Lijewski's state-record fish. 

      Bollenburg caught the fish right at dusk, which he said is a prime time for these big catfish in the Tailrace Canal.

       "Just at dark, and then at night is prime time for big-fish bites," he said. "But catching it at that time was also part of the reason it took a while to get the certified weight of the fish recorded.

       "Despite being disappointed at just missing the state record, it's still a huge fish and one I've proud of. Plus, I'm thrilled that we kept it alive and got it safely to the Bass Pro Shops aquarium in North Carolina. By the time we transported the fish, it had begun eating again. I think it's going to be OK."