Monster fish being caught in monster capital of West Virginia

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Monster fish being caught in monster capital of West Virginia
Far from urban areas, lakes in West Virginia may boast more than their share of big fish. (Photo courtesy Clark Young)

Bigfoot and the aren't the only bizarre creatures being reported at the center of West Virginia in Braxton County. Apparently, the is hard to believe, too.

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Trophies of legendary size are being taken in its lakes and rivers, and fishing in the area appears to be on the increase as the coronavirus outbreak ensues, according to Andrew Smith, executive director of the .

Heather Frame Johnson holds a trout she caught in the Elk River.

Smith says that though he's heard about monster fish in the region's two lakes and its rivers, he's now witnessing the results on social media.

"Growing up around here, folks would often mention catfish the size of a Volkswagen Bug," Smith said.

"One story told to me was that while work was being performed at Sutton Dam a diver was standing on what seemed to be a sunken log, when, after a moment, the log swam away. So it wasn't a log at all!"

While Braxton County has long been known as the home of the Flatwoods Monster, and more recently for an alleged , Smith says that tales of legendary fish seem to have been more popular locally.

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"I feel like I heard more about the monster catfish growing up than I did about the Flatwoods Monster," he said. "That might be because I would hear these tales while swimming—usually in Sutton Lake."

Two of the largest lakes in the state—Sutton and Burnsville lakes—occupy more than 2,000 acres in Braxton County, and two of its principal rivers—the Elk and Little Kanawha—trend across the county from east to west.

Cody Walker at Burnsville Lake

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has encouraged state residents to indulge in outdoor recreation pursuits that allow for physical distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, and fishing and hiking are among the sports he has promoted.

Smith said that he's aware of the recent large specimens taken by Heather Frame Johnson, who caught a rainbow trout in the Elk River near Sutton, West Virginia, and a large catfish taken by Cody Walker at Burnsville Lake. A third large fish, a muskellunge, was apparently also taken recently at Burnsville Lake.

Johnson said the 9.26 lb., 27-3/8-inch-long trout is the largest that she or any member of her family has taken out of the Elk.

The weight record for rainbow trout in West Virginia was set by a 15.65-pound fish caught by Aaron Propps in a private pond in 2005. The state record length remains a 31.7-inch rainbow caught by John P. Arnett in 1993 at Stonecoal Lake.

Smith said that although many attractions in the county, such as the , are closed for the duration of the coronavirus peak, many restaurants are open for take-out dining, and the bureau is providing an .

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