Millers Falls woman catches record-breaking catfish on Connecticut River

Millers Falls resident Brandy Hutchinson won the 2023 American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby with a 21-pound, 6-ounce fish.

Millers Falls resident Brandy Hutchinson won the 2023 American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby with a 21-pound, 6-ounce fish. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Millers Falls resident Brandy Hutchinson won the 2023 American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby with a 21-pound, 6-ounce fish.

Millers Falls resident Brandy Hutchinson won the 2023 American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby with a 21-pound, 6-ounce fish. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Millers Falls resident Brandy Hutchinson won the 2023 American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby with a 21-pound, 6-ounce fish.

Millers Falls resident Brandy Hutchinson won the 2023 American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby with a 21-pound, 6-ounce fish. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 08-29-2023 2:31 PM

HOLYOKE — While the term “catfish” has come to refer to deceptively portraying oneself online to manipulate others, know that you’re not being catfished here — the jaw-dropping images you’re about to see are real.

Millers Falls resident Brandy Hutchinson set an all-time record at the American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby last weekend with a 33-inch long, 21-pound, 6-ounce catch. Hutchinson’s channel catfish, reeled in from the Connecticut River in Turners Falls, beat out this year’s second-place fish by nearly 8 pounds and topped the derby’s 43-year record by about 3 pounds, according to Derby Committee President Dan Anderson.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” Anderson said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, how is that even possible?’”

This year’s fishing competition, held Friday through Sunday, was Hutchinson’s fourth. Having never placed in prior years, she decided to switch up her approach when she cast her line from her wooded secret spot on Saturday, opting to substitute her usual nightcrawler bait for a shiner.

“Then, it bit, and it felt like it was a pretty decent fish, but it didn’t really give me too much of a fight,” she recalled.

Her husband, a 20-year participant in the derby, swiftly descended the cliff and secured the fish in a net. While the couple typically takes photos with their catches, upon seeing this fish’s size, they opted to head straight to Post 351 in Holyoke to register it.

“When we saw it … we were like, ‘We are not doing anything,’” Hutchinson said, noting that fish must be alive upon registration to qualify for the derby. “We’re getting it in the truck.”

Anderson said Hutchinson’s catfish more than doubled the average size that was submitted to the derby. He also estimated that only about one catfish weighing 20 pounds or more is caught in Massachusetts per year.

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“Everyone was in shock,” Anderson said of those participating in the derby. “They were like, ‘We’ve never seen a fish this big before.’”

Hutchinson received $351 for winning the competition, but her victory was not just about the money. She said it was also fulfilling to become the first woman to ever win the American Legion Post 351 Catfish Derby. She added that the winner of this year’s youth division happened to be female as well.

“I think for me, I felt like I was going into this men’s sport … and I felt like it was going to be awkward, but it absolutely wasn’t,” Hutchinson said. “We just took this and made this a girl’s event.”

After registering her catfish, Hutchinson released the fish back into the Connecticut River, where all qualifying fish had to be caught.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.