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RALEIGH, N.C. (March 15) - With spring fishing just around the corner, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reminds anglers that the channel catfish state record, vacated in May 2005, is still waiting to be broken.

To make it easier for anglers to reel in a potential record breaker, the agency has dropped the minimum weight requirement from 20 pounds to 10 pounds.

The old state record, held by Maryville, Tenn., angler Pete Paine since 1971, was decertified when a photograph in the May 2005 issue of Wildlife in North Carolina revealed that the fish Paine caught from Fontana Lake was actually a flathead catfish, a species that grows much larger than the channel cat.

The time is ripe for a new state record: In 2006 alone, seven state records were broken - one twice. The next record breaker could be just a cast away - providing anglers know where to go and how to fish for channel cats.

Although channel catfish are native to the Mississippi, they have been introduced in a variety of waters statewide, from small ponds to big lakes and flowing rivers. In eastern North Carolina, good spots to cast a line are Sutton Lake in New Hanover County and Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County. Anglers in Halifax County can try the Roanoke River above the Hwy. 258 bridge near the Edward's Ferry access area.

In the Piedmont, anglers have reeled in some nice-sized channel cats from Jordan Reservoir in Chatham County and Lake Townsend in Guilford County. Western Piedmont and Mountain region anglers can try the Catawba River chain of lakes in Iredell, Gaston, Lincoln and Mecklenburg counties.

Through its Community Fishing Program, the Wildlife Resources Commission annually stocks more than 180,000 catchable-sized channel catfish in 45 program sites across the state.

Gregarious feeders, channel cats will bite almost any type of natural bait - the smellier the better. "Stink" baits, such as cut fish, chicken livers, cheese, shrimp and crayfish blood baits, are good choices. Popular artificial lures include deep-diving crank baits fished slowly along the bottom, spoons and spinners.

To qualify for a state record, anglers must have caught the fish on a hook and line, must have the fish weighed on a certified scale witnessed by one observer, have the fish positively identified by a qualified expert from the Commission and submit an application with a full, side-view photo of the fish.

For a list of all freshwater fish state records in North Carolina or more information on the State Record Fish or Community Fishing programs, visit the Commission's Web site,
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