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Moon Lake yields record catfish

David Samson / The Forum Tina Willis and Toby Mougey display the catfish Willis caught on Moon Lake on July 25. The fish weighed 42 pounds, 1 ounce and was 40 inches long, setting a new state record.

Tina Willis of West Fargo caught a channel catfish so big last Saturday, it became a North Dakota state record.

"We were trying to catch some big catfish and we sure did," Willis said of her fishing outing with boyfriend Toby Mougey of Fargo.

The 31-year-old Willis, who works at Auto Owners Insurance in Fargo, used a frog for bait while fishing from the shore of Moon Lake -- located southwest of Valley City.

The 40-inch-long catfish weighed 42 pounds, 1 ounce --- breaking the state record of 33 pounds, 4 ounces set in 1991 on the Red River by Bruce Pannkuk of Minneapolis.

"It felt like I hooked into a log," Willis said. "As I was reeling it in and we saw glimpses of the fish, we thought 'Geez, she is pretty big. She has to be a state record as big as it looked.'"

So first thing on Sunday, they called Gene Van Eeckhout of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Van Eeckhout, district fisheries supervisor based in Jamestown, officially weighed the fish on Sunday.

"I've handled a few big catfish, but nothing like this," said Van Eeckhout. "What an animal. They set the bar pretty high, didn't they?"

Willis said she has been fishing for a number of years, but got into catfishing the last three years. Her biggest catfish before was a 29-pounder pulled out of the Sheyenne Diversion near Harwood.

"This was pretty exciting," Willis said. "It was pretty awesome."

Willis' 42-pound catfish also tops the Minnesota state record of 38 pounds set in 1975 in the Mississippi River. The national and world channel catfish record is 58 pounds, set in 1964 in South Carolina.

Willis said she plans to donate the fish to the Game and Fish Department and have a replica made to hang on the wall.

The Forum and Jamestown Sun are both owned by Forum Communications Co.