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118-Pound Uninvited Fish Species Breaks State Record

G&F News Digest: Wheeler wins MLF event, record-class moose bulls found locked together, Duck Stamp winners.

118-Pound Uninvited Fish Species Breaks State Record

Bryan Baker with Spoonbill Wreckers recently caught this 118-pound, 3-ounce bighead carp. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation)

Memorial Day is around the corner and soon after that the summer solstice arrives. As spring transitions toward summer, here’s this week’s edition of Game and Fish Magazine’s News Digest.

Massive Invasive Caught in Oklahoma

This record-breaking fish story from Oklahoma may not be one that many folks really want to celebrate. Bryan Baker's Oklahoma-record 118-pound, 3-ounce bighead carp is a giant catch for sure, but as an unwanted invasive species in the Sooner State the cheering maybe more because it was removed from the water.

In its recent weekly fishing report, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation included a photo of the massive fish. With the photo came this caption, "We've asked skilled anglers to help capture invasive bighead carp from Grand Lake, and Oklahoma anglers have answered the call!"

If that seems big, it is. Baker's bighead carp ranks among the largest fish ever caught—or snagged—in the Sooner State. In fact, it is likely only topped by an alligator gar or two caught in the state over the years, including the 254-pound, 12-ounce monster from Lake Texoma in 2015.

Alligator gar get huge by eating chunks of protein, but bighead carp grow large by ingesting a primordial soup according to ODWC: "Bighead carp consume large quantities of zooplankton, aquatic insect larvae and adults. Because of their feeding habits, bighead carp are a direct competitor with our native species like paddlefish and bigmouth buffalo, as well as all larval and juvenile fishes and native mussels."

Had the bighead carp from northeastern Oklahoma been caught by conventional means—it was amazingly one of several huge bigheads snagged by Baker that day including one that weighed 112 pounds—it would have shattered the record for the species, a 90-pound bighead carp caught from Guntersville Lake on June 2, 2005 by Jeffrey J. Rorex.

Oklahoma law requires that any caught bighead carp cannot be returned to the water. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says bighead carp is native to eastern Asia and was "introduced to the southern United States in the 1970s to help aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities keep retention ponds clean and to provide fresh fish for human consumption."

Anglers catching a bighead carp are asked to report the catch to the agency's Porter office at 918-683-1031 or 918-200-4815.

One other note here. Not only is Baker’s bighead carp a new state record for the invasive species in Oklahoma, but it could also have shattered an International Game Fish Association world record for the species if it had been caught by conventional means. Since a story by The Oklahoman newspaper indicates that the fish was snagged—as paddlefish typically are in northeastern Oklahoma—it won’t count as a new world record.

Montana Hosts RMEF World Elk Calling Championship

If your summer vacation plans include a trip to Montana for trout or a visit to Yellowstone, head for Missoula next month where the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will host the RMEF World Elk Calling Championship in Montana for the first time ever. Presented by Sportsman’s Warehouse, the competition will feature all five defending champions from last year, as well as other past winners. The competition is scheduled June 24 at the RMEF MTN Fest presented by onX Hunt at Big Sky Resort.

In addition to the elk calling competition, the event will also include the Total Archery Challenge, a base camp comprised of outdoor brand and hunting gear manufacturers, and a Saturday evening celebration fundraiser.

"We can't wait to welcome the world's best elk callers to Montana," said Riza Lesser, RMEF managing director of marketing and communication, in a news release. "And with more than $45,000 in cash and prizes available for the contestants, it should be a great, competitive day."


Record Class Pair of Shiras Moose Found Floating in Idaho

The Boone and Crockett Club recently reported that a pair of record-sized bull Shiras moose were discovered floating in Idaho, having locked together last fall and apparently fighting to their deaths.

The B&C report indicates that Chad Cline and his daughter Teiryn A. Yarbrough discovered the two bulls in a remote lake after receiving a tip. Once the difficult recovery was complete, B&C reports that one of the bulls scored 153 5/8 inches while the other one scored 188 1/8. That latter number makes the pick-up bull the fourth largest recorded in Idaho according to B&C and also the 16th highest ranked Shiras bull moose of all time. As noted in its news release, the B&C Club allows for pick-up, or found, entries to be included in its records, a practice that dates back to the Club's early days.

Cline plans on keeping the two bulls locked together in a taxidermy mount, one that he admits ruefully may require him to "build the house around it."

Junior Duck Stamp Winner Selected

According to a Delta Waterfowl news release, Mila Linyue Tong’s acrylic painting of a hooded merganser took home first prize at the National Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest. Held at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.V., the painting from the 15-year-old Virginia youth was chosen from 62 entries by a panel of five judges. Delta notes that the sale of the Junior Duck Stamp "raises funds to educate and engage the next generation of conservationists."

Florida Fish Habitat Money Allocations Praised

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust recently highlighted the passage of historic funding levels by the Florida Legislature to improve water quality and fish habitat along the state's Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines and estuaries. According to B&TT, among other things, the 2023 legislative session in the Sunshine State provided record funding that included $1 billion for Florida water quality improvements, $574.6 million for Everglades restoration, $200 million for a wastewater grant program, and $104.9 million for the Indian River Lagoon WQI.

Short Casts

Kevin VanDam might be the undisputed "GOAT" in professional bass fishing history, but Jacob Wheeler has plans on wrestling that title away someday. The Tennessee resident continued his dominating ways on the Major League Fishing Pro Bass Trail circuit by winning the BPT Stage Four title at Alabama's Lake Guntersville with a winning weight of 54 pounds, 15 ounces. That was enough to give Wheeler, currently ranked No. 1 by BassFan, the $100,000 top prize and his sixth career BPT win. … Speaking of VanDam, or KVD as many bass-fishing fans know him, he was recently part of a group of BPT anglers who rolled up their sleeves on a tournament off-day in Louisiana to help build fish habitat structures in Lake Claiborne. VanDam joined fellow competitors Dakota Ebare and Gary Klein at the Heavy Hitters event to build MossBack Fish Habitat artificial structures on Claiborne as part of the Minn Kota Habitat Restoration Project, supported by Humminbird. In a partnership with Berkley, the three BPT pros joined officers from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fish (LDWF), officials with the Claiborne Parish Watershed District Commission, Duck Dynasty star John Godwin, and MLF Fisheries Management Division director Steve Bardin. Around 80 structures were built. … Missouri is proposing raising the price of most hunting permits, along with permit prices for fishing, trapping and commercial permits, according to a news release from the Missouri Department of Conservation. With MDC issuing nearly 2.6 million hunting, fishing and trapping permits each year, the agency notes that most of those prices have remained steady for nearly 20 years although costs to deliver goods and services have gone up. The proposal seeks to raise prices for resident and non-resident hunting and fishing permits, annual trout permits and daily trout tags, commercial and lifetime permits, and MDC Permit Cards. For the most part, the cost increases are modest with gradual adjustments over the next decade, the agency said.

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