Summertime is here, thousands of anglers are flocking to the water, and for each one, fishing fame could be just a cast away.
The TWRA recognizes records for more than 100 fish species taken by rod and reel, plus another 26 records for “trash” fish taken by other methods.
There is a record for such exotic and hard-to-catch species as muskellunge, as well as for more common species like bluegills and crappie.
There is a record for big fish – like the 120-pound paddlefish caught in Center Hill – and for tiny species such the pumpkinseed, the biggest of which tipped the scales at a whopping five ounces.
Tennessee’s most long-standing record is for the largemouth bass. The biggest ever recorded weighed 14 pounds, 8 ounces. It was caught in 1954 in Lawrence County’s Sugar Creek.
Close behind in terms of longevity is the state-record smallmouth caught in 1955 out of Dale Hollow Lake.
Why are records important? Bobby Wilson, TWRA Chief of Fisheries, says they give anglers a basis for comparison. If an angler catches a huge bluegill, for example, he might be interested in how it compares to the biggest one ever caught.
Also, when it comes to such popular species as the smallmouth bass, calling attention to the state’s trophy fish can lure anglers from around the country and have a positive economic impact.
The Dale Hollow smallmouth is not only a state record but a world record as well. When devoted smallmouth fishermen around the country start planning a trip, they might be inclined to head to the lake that produced the biggest bronzeback ever caught.
A record is also a recognition of accomplishment, says the son of the late Mabry Harper of Hartsville. Mabry caught a 25-pound walleye in Old Hickory Lake in 1960 and it continues to stand as a world record. The record was voided several years ago amid a dispute over its size, but it was eventually restored.
“My dad was a great fisherman and he took pride in his catches,” says Harper’s son Robert. “He’s no longer with us, but his friends and family like to see his name in the record book. He was proud of his record and we’re proud of it too.”
The TWRA has guidelines for submitting a fish for record consideration. The fish has to be weighed on a certified scale before two witnesses. If the fish weighs within two ounces of the existing record it is eligible for consideration. The next step is to contact a TWRA official to inspect the fish – either fresh or frozen – to make a positive species identification and complete other documentation.
There is no monetary award for a record fish, although a record for a popular species such as bass or crappie might net the angler some tackle endorsements.
Any sizable fish, even if it’s not a record, can qualify for the TWRA Angler Recognition Program that awards a personalized certificate to the angler. Details are in the Tennessee Fishing Guide, available at most outdoors outlets.
While it may be hard to surpass long-standing records for such species such as largemouth, smallmouth and walleye, lots of other bragging rights are up for grabs.
It’s interesting to know just how big, comparatively, a big fish really is.
It might even be a record-breaker – and aren’t records made to be broken?