Tonia Melhorn’s Christmas shopping trip on Dec. 20 indirectly meant a big, special gift for her husband, Dieter.
It was “wrapped in blue.”
While Tonia looked for presents, Dieter went fishing at Lake Wylie, not far from the family’s home in Cramerton.
The result was a 60-pound, 3-ounce blue catfish for the master angler, his biggest at Wylie and unofficially among the five largest ever at the reservoir near Charlotte.
“My chores were done and since Tonia was out, I decided to spend the last few hours of the day in search of a big fish,” Melhorn said Monday. “I caught one way beyond what I imagined.”
Melhorn, 45, is a professional videographer who works all over the country, specializing in NASCAR footage. He is president of the Carolina Catfish Club.
“I was on the water and anchored by 3 p.m. near the South Point Access Area,” Melhorn said. “A few days before I had marked some large fish on my sonar in that section. I made up my mind to stay in that one spot until dark.
“I cast out eight rods using cut white perch for bait. Within the first 90 minutes I caught three fish, including blues of 22 and 20 pounds. Then the bite seemed to die down. Right around 5:30 I was preparing to head in when a rod folded over and the fish took off from 18 feet down toward deeper water. I set the hook and the fight was on.”
Despite the whopper size, Melhorn had the fish in his net within about four minutes.
“I took some pictures and made a video, then measured and weighed the fish for (N.C.) Wildlife Commission biologists. I put a tag in it and released it alive,” Melhorn said.
He was using 20-pound-test line with a 60-pound leader.
“While there are no official lake records, I know of four blues in the 60-pound range that have been caught at Wylie by our club’s members,” said Dieter. “I feel it’s only a matter of time until someone catches a 70-to-80 pounder there.”