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This NC fish story is a real 143-pound whopper

It took Nick Anderson 45 minutes to reel in the monster catfish he snagged at Kerr Lake, a 143-pound prize that will likely notch a new world record.

Wrestling with the whiskered beast left Anderson with a sore back - and it's no wonder, considering a fish that big weighs as much as a baby giraffe, a moped or a Japanese wrestler named Takuya Sugi.

The record isn't official, but if Anderson captures the record, he will have shattered the old mark for blue catfish, easily passing the 130-pound whopper pulled out of the Missouri River last year.

Regardless, the 29-year-old football coach from Greenville, N.C., takes bragging rights away from his father and brother, taking this year's trophy home from the family trip.

"My dad netted him by the head, my brother grabbed the tail and I grabbed his body," Anderson said. "We were just shocked."

Anderson hooked his fish just before dusk on Saturday and just over the Virginia line, where the John H. Kerr Reservoir is known as Buggs Island Lake.

It measured 57 inches long, just shy of 5 feet, and 43.5 inches around - a girth that almost matches the average mall Santa.

He won't reveal his bait choice beyond a "family secret," nor his tackle beyond a "rod and reel," but the Virginia weekly Mecklenburg News-Progress listed his gear as an "Ugly Stick" rod with a Shimano reel and 30-pound test line.

For now, the State Record Fish Committee of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is reviewing the application for a new state record, which would beat the 109-pound behemoth caught in the same lake in March.

"Everybody is really excited," Lee Walker, spokesman with the Virginia department, said. "Blue cats are considered one of the top game fish out there. There's a huge following. There's a tournament circle. This will bring national headlines."

And with the state record hurdled, he said, it should be an easy jump to the world mark, certified by the International Game Fish Association.

"That's a lot of weight to break a record by," Walker said. "Normally, when you see new world records, it's by an ounce or a tenth of an ounce."

Not a native species

Blue catfish are not a native species, and their growth varies wildly depending on food and temperature, said Wayne Starnes, curator of fishes for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Fishermen lusting after trophies tend to introduce them on the sly, he said, guessing that a blue cat that large would be about 20 years old.

"They're known to scavenge when striped bass tear into a school of gizzard shad," he said. "They hang out like jackals after a lion kill."

Anderson's fish drew a small crowd, but it couldn't be kept alive long enough to find out if it outweighs all its unlucky brothers.

So it sits in a freezer, waiting to be mounted and immortalized in fish stories that will require no exaggeration.