When we think of big game, the first thing that comes to mind is North America’s number one sought after big game, the whitetail deer. Within seconds though, our minds will follow a track of black bear, leading to grizzlies, and maybe run over images of elk. Once we have painted the image of the elk, then we may envision a moose with big ole slabs of envy on each side of his head.
Our minds may conjure an African safari with pursuit of the Dangerous Six; the lion, cheetah, hippo, rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo. Yes, if you consider yourself a worldwide hunter, or even an African big game hunter, you are kidding yourself if you haven’t pursued one of those big game beasts in an attempt to adorn your trophy room.
However, only pelagic anglers tend to think differently in regards to big game. Their imaginations run wild with a different type of beast. Their pursuits involve a hunt in three dimensions, not just the plane of the land’s surface, but the added dimension of depth of the ocean deep blue.
Fish weighing over a ton with long pointed bills, such as the various marlin species., come to their minds. Tuna, enough to fill tens of hundreds of cans, fighting hours upon end against an angler, his rod and his reel, are their big game pursuits.
Yet, throughout our state, we have another big game animal living all around us that we don’t always see in that regards. Perhaps it is because when we meet this creature, it usually is just a few pounds. We know it gets bigger, but we feel it is more fantasy than reality. It has a name of both a land animal and a sea creature, the catfish.
Zakk Royce knows the fantasy all too well. His reality is the rest of us’s fantasy world. For over 15 years, the Murfreesboro native who now lives in Wilmington, has sought after catfish on Lake Gaston. And it hasn’t been just the two to three pounds variety either. He has looked for the big ones.
He studied their habits and their habitat. The big blues was his goal. Blue catfish can get big, and by big meaning bigger than typical whitetail deer we hunt for.
Zakk’s passion drove him to guide with Blue’s Brothers Catfishing Guide Service in order to help others develop both a respect for and passion of catching the blue catfish.
As the calendar began to turn from 2015 to 2016, Zakk’s pursuits culminated into something that again proves our fantasy is Zakk’s reality.
On December 20th, Zakk brought in his Moby Dick, his great white whale. Only this one had whiskers. After the official weigh-in on certified scales, Zakk broke the state record with a blue cat hitting 91 pounds. Zakk was also quick to announce that the fish had been released, alive, back to the dark bottom of Gaston where he came from.
As the congratulations were coming in from all over the state, Zakk went out to the lake once again. Zakk has been known to stay out three to four days at a time and in fact got a tent for a Christmas gift that would allow him to pitch it on the bow of the boat.
When someone has a passion for something, they don’t just stop doing it because they have just broken a record that has stood for nearly a decade.
The very next day, Zakk made an announcement to an ever growing friends list, “As many of you already know I broke the NC state record blue catfish yesterday, it was certified at 91 pounds today. After releasing that fish today we decided to fish more, as unbelievable as it may sound I ended up landing a massive 105 pound Blue Catfish today shattering the record I had just broken yesterday with the 91 pounder.”
Yes, two records in two days, and actually within 24 hours.
Dedication, commitment, and overall enjoyment fuels the passion Zakk has for catching big blues. Those attributes paid off, twice.
Zakk will be teaching seminars on how to hunt big game blues in Raleigh at the Fishing Expo at the state fairgrounds this weekend and in Doswell, Virginia at the Richmond Fishing Expo January 15-17.