May 28, 2020
By Game & Fish Staff
A 143-pound paddlefish snagged during the Memorial Day weekend in Oklahoma easily beat the state record, but it also is one of the biggest ever recorded.
Jeremiah Mefford of Kiefer, who operates Reel Good Time Guide Service, caught the fish during a family outing on May 23 at Keystone Lake, beating the previous record (132 pounds, 8 ounces) by more than 10 pounds, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The 76-inch-long, man-sized fish was only a pound shy of the world record recognized by the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (144 pounds, caught in Kansas in 2004).
Because of some unique regulations pertaining to the snagging and harvest of paddlefish, several variables lined up in order for Mefford’s catch to be certified. These included:
- The fish was snagged on a day when harvest is allowed. (Paddlefish regulations prohibit harvest on Mondays and Fridays, and ODWC will not certify any paddlefish records on those days.)
- The angler had not reached his two-fish annual limit for paddlefish harvest, and therefore he could legally hold and harvest the fish. (Regulations specify no culling, which means a paddlefish cannot be held or restrained but must be released promptly if an angler chooses not to harvest the fish.)
- ODWC employees were nearby and were able to respond in a timely manner to weigh the fish and witness the state-record affidavit.
It was Mefford’s second brush this year with a record-worthy paddlefish. On Valentine’s Day, also on Keystone Lake, client angler Justin Hamlin of Tulsa reeled in a fish that was estimated at 157 pounds. The only problem is that is was caught on a Friday, and had to be immediately released back into the water.
The fish was released alive, according to the state agency. As it would be illegal for Mefford to release the fish himself, he agreed to relinquish possession of the live fish to the Wildlife Department so it could be released.
- More about paddlefish: The American paddlefish roams lakes and rivers of the Mississippi Basin. Paddlefish were once very abundant across their range but have declined in many areas. These fish can live up to 30 years, and they can grow to huge sizes. The rod-and-reel world record American paddlefish, snagged in Kansas in 2004, weighed 144 pounds. The largest American paddlefish on record, taken by a spearfisherman in Iowa in 1916, reportedly weighed 198 pounds.