Seaford man catches state record blue catfish

March 18, 2017

While most of us were sitting at home complaining about the nasty weather, Thad Palmer of Seaford went fishing in Broad Creek. He was soaking bunker on the bottom in an effort to catch a blue catfish, and his efforts were rewarded with what turned out to be a new state record. The big blue cat tipped the scales at 24.65 pounds and measured 37 inches long when Thad checked it in at Taylored Tackle in Seaford.

I have been hearing reports of blue catfish caught from the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek on bunker chunks and have been planning on giving it a try this spring. I was waiting for someone to catch a blue cat before traveling over to Laurel, and now, once spring returns, I no longer have an excuse.

Actually, I have been fishing Broad Creek in Laurel since I was a small child. In the 1950s, spring fishing targeted shad and herring. I would fish the spillway below Records Pond, catching herring two at a time on double shad dart rigs. The occasional American shad would tip the scales at 5 pounds or more. My grandmother would not fool with the herring, but baked the shad and also mixed the shad roe with eggs for a great Sussex County breakfast. Both of those fish are now off limits and, if caught, must be returned to the water.

Get ready

As quickly as the weather turned wet, windy and cold, it can change back to dry, calm and warm, so anglers should be getting their tackle and boats in shape to take on the new season.

The one thing you must have in tip-top shape is your safety gear. This includes checking the expiration date on your flares and the charge in your fire extinguisher. Both of these safety items may be stored out of sight and often go unnoticed until they are needed or the Coast Guard decides to check your boat.

It is also a good idea to get out your life preservers and check them for any damage. Most of the PFDs I see are stored away in a bag marked life preservers. That is all well and good until an emergency arises and you find the fabric has mold or dry rot, and the belts and snaps are damaged. It is far better to check out these lifesavers before the boat is in the water and even better if you and everyone on the boat wears theirs whenever the boat is underway.

I know all of you cleaned your reels and replaced old fishing line last fall before storing your tackle. For the few of you who may not have done that job, now is the time.

Mono line should be replaced every year. It is inexpensive and does suffer damage from sunlight and salt water.

Braid is a different story. It is expensive and does not seem to deteriorate as quickly as mono. Saying this, I have had braid go bad, but only after several years of hard use. When this happens, the braid becomes brittle and breaks with just the slightest strain. You can replace the line or reverse it by taking it off the reel and reversing the line by putting it on another spool then returning it to the reel in the reverse order. This is a bit of a pain, but not the pain of paying for 300 yards of new braid.

When you do have to replace braided line, it is far less expensive to put 300 yards on top of mono backing. Small reels will hold the entire 300 yards, but larger reels need the backing. I use an Albright knot to join the braid to the mono. The same knot is used to join the braid to the shock leader. The Uni knot is another good choice for joining two dissimilar lines.

Once the reels are clean and the line is replaced, give everything a good coating of WD-40 and you are set for your first trip. I continue to coat my tackle with WD-40 after every trip. It is so much better than washing the stuff with soap and water. Water can dilute the salt on your equipment, and this mixture can seep into the internal works of your reel. I have seen reels that looked fine on the outside yet were nothing but a salt-corroded mess on the inside.

Another item that can benefit from a good coat of WD-40 is all your hooks and snap swivels. I have a separate plastic box for these things and give the inside and contents a soaking in WD-40 once or twice a year. Keeps the hooks shiny and bright, and keeps the swivels swiveling. 

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at