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State record channel catfish voided 70 years later

Matt Gade / Republic

PIERRE — A legendary South Dakota fishing record has been taken off the books, 70 years later.

The state’s record for channel catfish has been held since 1949 by Roy Groves, who caught a 55-pound catfish in the James River on May 18, 1949. Saturday is the 70th anniversary of that catch.

But Groves’ famous catch has always been under suspicion, and South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks Fisheries Program Administrator Geno Adams announced the record was voided Friday. Adams said the fish has been declared a blue catfish. The fish has always been called into question because the straight anal fin resembled a blue catfish, rather than a channel catfish.

"Ever since I started working for GF&P, anglers have believed it was not a channel catfish. Many of my colleagues have seen that picture and have quickly said that Mr. Groves’ fish is a blue catfish,” Adams said in a news release. ”I sent the picture to two South Dakota State University fisheries professors and fish identification experts, and both agreed. We feel that, while this is a great fish and a great story, it is time to open the channel catfish category and start fresh."

The record is now vacant, and the GF&P is seeking to capitalize. They’ve created a social media campaign called “Catrush 2019,” seeking to increase interest in catfish, which are abundant and underutilized in the state, the department said.

"Currently the state record channel catfish doesn't exist,” Adams said. “Our hope is that people target channel catfish and we have the state record broken multiple times in the next few weeks. … We think it will be a fun way to create interest in catfishing.”

Groves, for his part, was a talented fisherman. He caught a 94 1/2-pound blue catfish in the James River near Yankton in 1949 that stood as the record until 1959.

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