A professional fisherman in Italy reeled in a massive catfish measuring more than nine feet long last month—and may have set a new world record in the process.
May 25 was just another normal day of fishing on Italy’s Po River for Alessandro Biancardi—until he felt a “powerful bite” on his lure, he writes for Madcat, his fishing team. Alone in his boat, he started a “very complicated fight” to reel in the mysterious behemoth, which he followed amid submerged obstacles and through strong currents, he writes.
After 40 minutes, the creature finally surfaced and Biancardi realized he had “hooked a monster.”
“The fear of losing it almost sent me into a panic,” he writes. “I was alone facing the biggest catfish I [had] ever seen in 23 years.”
Running on adrenaline, Biancardi tried to grab the fish by the mouth, but he still couldn’t wrangle it. Exhausted, he moved into shallower water and finally landed the creature—a wels catfish.
As if hauling in the animal wasn’t draining enough, Biancardi then realized he had forgotten to anchor his boat, which was suddenly at risk of floating away on the current. He tied up the fish, jumped in the water and swam to recover his belongings.
Once the situation was under control, Biancardi called a friend and asked him to alert others staying at a nearby fishing camp. With ten witnesses watching, Biancardi unfurled his tape measure along the length of the fish.
It spanned about nine feet and four inches long (285 centimeters), which, as Li Cohen writes for CBS News, is “roughly the size of a U-Haul cargo van.” Biancardi decided not to weigh the fish out of fear of stressing it further and gently released the creature back into the river. He hopes the huge catfish will give another angler “the same joy he gave me,” he writes.
Biancardi sent the fish’s length to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), but it could be “some time” before the group officially confirms the record, per Madcat.
Because Biancardi did not keep the fish, it will qualify for the association’s new catch-and-release length record, as Travis Hall reports for Field & Stream magazine. If his measurement checks out, his fish is more than an inch (four centimeters) longer than the current record-holder in that category, which also came from the Po River: In April, two fishermen in an inflatable raft set the standing record.
The Po is known for producing enormous catfish, but it’s at risk of drying up as an ongoing drought plagues the region. Last summer, water levels dipped so much that a sunken World War II barge became visible. Winter brought little relief to the parched river valley, and in early April, the river reached a 30-year seasonal low, as Paolo Santalucia reported for the Associated Press. And the issue is not unique to the Po—amid dry climate conditions, rivers across the continent flowed slowly and even became impassable to barge traffic in August, wrote Kate Connolly for the Guardian.