Biggest not necessarily best tasting

aaacat1 From the catfish anglers to noodlers, the quest for big catfish is on their minds once they hit the water. 
But a common debate among catfish anglers is at what size do catfish produce the best meat quality? Some anglers say that the bigger the catfish, the better the meat. Others choose to catch and release all catfish caught over a certain weight.  
Richard Ott, TPWD’s Tyler district biologist, has studied catfish populations in the East Texas area. He says the best weight for a tasty catfish is solely based upon the angler.  
Lewisville Lake guide Bobby Kubin caught trophy catfish for several years but has a preference to what size taste the best.
“Catfish 13 to 14 inches,” Kubin said. “They have finer texture similar to crappie.”
With anglers preferring to eat smaller catfish, there is a movement to keep the bigger catfish in the water. Many anglers choose to catch and release all catfish over 10 pounds. 
Ott said he is one of  the anglers who chooses to catch and release the bigger catfish
“Catfish can handle and recover quickly from several catch and releases,” he said. 
The problem with eating bigger and older catfish is they have consumed a lot of baitfish that may contain toxins like heavy metals (mercury) and organic compounds.  These catfish consume baitfish over the years, causing their bodies to hold these harmful materials that could get passed to anglers. 
The Texas Department of Health have issued advisories to anglers eating fish (including catfish) in Texas lakes such as lakes Kimball and Pruitt due to their levels of mercury. 
Ott said his goal is to have every Texas angler get the opportunity to catch big catfish over and over again. 
Currently, lakes Lewisville, Waco and Richland Chambers have regulations on blue and channel catfish to keep trophy-sized in their waters. The new regulation for these lakes is a 25-fish bag limit (blue and channel catfish) between the 30- to 45-inch slot, with only one catfish allowed over 45 inches.  
On Lake Kirby, the bag limits went from 25 to 50 catfish (blue and channel) with no minimum length, but only five catfish over 20 inches allowed. These regulations were put in so anglers could catch smaller, but good eating-sized catfish, while preserving the big fish.
The more big catfish that stay in the water, the more anglers will get to know the hard and heavy fight only a catfish can produce.