Kentucky’s elusive catfish, Big Jeff, caught after 19 years

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Every year since 1999, Big Jeff — the biggest of the catfish stocked at Jeffers Bend — was able to evade the hooks of young anglers during the annual Take Kids Fishing event in Hopkinsville.

But not this year.

Trey Blanton, 13, caught a 28-inch long fish that had the same markings as the one featured in the Friday edition of the Kentucky New Era. Charles Turner, organizer of Take Kids Fishing, announced that one was indeed Big Jeff.

On Saturday, Trey was convinced he had caught that fish.

“It was the hardest to get in,” he said.

Trey, along with his father and brothers, have been coming to Take Kids Fishing since he was about three or four. He never actively hunted for the prized fish.

“I take what I can get,” Trey said, but added he always tried to go for bigger fish.

Before Saturday, his previous biggest fish was from Kentucky Lake and weighed 3 pounds. In Take Kids Fishing, his biggest had been 26-inches long.

He thought he had a chance on winning the biggest fish category for his age group.

The teenager said he used a worm and some secret bait to catch Big Jeff. Now he plans to take it home, clean it and eat it. He said he believes it will taste like victory.

Big Jeff wasn’t the only one captured Saturday in Jeffers Bend.

Carley Day, 14, caught herself a 24-inch fish, which her sister, Destinee, named Big Bobby.

“Somebody else caught Big Jeff,” Destinee said. “We got Big Bobby.”

Like Trey, Carley never cared about catching Big Jeff. She and her sister guess they’ve been coming to Take Kids fishing for close to a decade and Carley has been happy with whatever she can catch.

But Big Bobby was the biggest one she’s gotten yet.

The teens were surprised with the big fish they were catching in the lake. They said they usually only caught small ones there.

“Sorry Big Bobby,” Destinee said. “You’re food now.”

Destinee explained they will be eating him tonight. Carley said she may not. She doesn’t care much for fish.

As for those fishing on Little River, a catfish named Big Marcus, who escaped a fisherman last year, flipping out of his bucket back into the river, still was not found. Timothy Wharton said the fish was still on the run and he hadn’t had much luck Saturday morning fishing for two of his grandsons. He suspected the fish had fled the area after the recent rain.

However, a little farther up the river, Devin Quiroz, 9, caught a 29-inch fish.

He believed it was Big Jeff.

“I saw him with a big tail,” he said, adding he had a gut feeling it was him.

He had been coming to Take Kids Fishing for the past two years and he had been on the lookout for Big Jeff the whole time.

Later, it was voted that while it was a big fish, it wasn’t Big Jeff. Turner, who estimated 300 children and their parents came out to the event, called Devin’s fish “Big Jeff 2017.”

Volunteer Ruth Lynch voted the fish be called Big Charles. Jeffers Bend Steering Committee Chair Mark Withers passed the motion.

Withers also said the next year’s fishers shouldn’t be concerned.

“We will have another Big Jeff,” he said. “Big Jeff will be back.”

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