Twila Gates, from Marianna, established a new Florida freshwater fishing record with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) this May. Her catch of a 1-pound, 5.6-ounce (1.35 pounds) flier on May 9 from a Jackson County pond beat the old record of 1.24 pounds. It had a total length of 12 inches and a girth of 11.8 inches. The previous state record came from Lake Iamonia near Tallahassee, in 1992.
If Gate’s flier is submitted to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), this could also become the new world record. Anglers from North Carolina and Georgia held the previous world record jointly with a pair of 1-pound, 4-ounce submissions.
Gates has been fishing with her dad since she was a little girl and has passed her love of the outdoors on to her son, Jantzen, 15. On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, she was fishing from a johnboat with her son and his friend, William Hinson, at a 15-acre cypress pond. She caught the flier on a Shakespeare micro-spin and 6-pound P-Line, using a white grub beetle-spin, at about 4:30 p.m. Hinson thought it was a record and looked it up online and called the regional office.
Chris Paxton, an FWC fisheries biologist, met her to verify the species and carefully measure and weigh the fish on certified scales.
Fliers are probably one of the lesser-known freshwater fish in Florida. They are native and typically found in somewhat heavily vegetated ponds and backwater sloughs, such as the pond where Gates caught this one.
In addition to the record flier, she caught four other nice-sized fliers and the boys added two 10-pound plus trophy bass.
The FWC has several freshwater angler recognition programs including, State Records, Big Catch and TrophyCatch.
State records require a biologist to verify the species and have a certified weight for the notarized application. The FWC maintains records for 33 freshwater species.
Big Catch is a long-standing, family-friendly angler recognition for those same 33 species. It recognizes anglers with a certificate if they qualify by submitting a photo of their catch online and if the catch exceeds specified weights or lengths. There are youth, specialist, master and elite angler awards as well. People can learn more at BigCatchFlorida.com.
TrophyCatch is the newest citizen-science conservation rewards program. By catching, documenting and releasing a largemouth bass heavier than eight pounds anglers earn rewards starting with $100 in Bass Pro Shops gift cards, recycle their catch and provide valuable information for conservation biologists. Anglers should be sure to register at TrophyCatchFlorida.com and read the rules, so they will be ready to document their next trophy bass with a photo of the fish on a scale and submit it for rewards. Just registering enters people in a drawing for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury.
“In one day of fishing, right here in the Fishing Capital of the World, Ms. Gates, her son and his friend were on the verge of qualifying for all three programs ─ and topped it off with a potential world record. That is a happy Mother’s Day weekend for a young lady devoted to her son and the outdoors,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.