How old was the Louisiana state-record catfish?

“I bet that thing is over 100 years old.”

Those are often the first words out of someone’s mouth when they view a really big specimen of any animal.

I decided to find out just how old Lawson Boyte’s 114-pound behemoth really was.

So I delivered a pectoral fin (the side fin located next to the gill) spine to the fisheries biologists at the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Resources.

I knew they had a track record of successfully aging thousands of freshwater catfish by cutting very thin cross sections from spines and counting the growth rings: Catfish, like trees, lay down a new layer every year of their lives, but of bone rather than wood.

Before getting the results, I asked for guesstimations from both biologists and lay people. Most non-biologist types guessed at least 50 years old; biologists were a little more conservative, typically guessing 40 to 50 years old.

The results when I heard from Dr. Bill Kelso, LSU professor of fisheries, shocked me.

The big fish was only 15 years old.

Kelso felt confident his office got a good read.

I guess it makes sense: Shaquille O’Neal was 6 feet, 10 inches tall and had size 17 feet when he was only 15.

About Jerald Horst 959 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.