Illinois River Biological Station giant carp
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Fisherman Accidentally Catches Record-Breaking 109-Pound Carp

The fish was hauled in during an invasive species removal but, unfortunately, one factor disqualifies it from the record books.

Commercial fisherman Charlie Gilpin Jr. pulled in a massive, 109-pound bighead carp June 14 in Illinois—17 pounds heavier than the standing Illinois bowfishing record and almost 20 pounds over the International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record for the species.

Sadly for Gilpin, the catch doesn't count. In fact, he wasn't even trying to haul in a record-smasher.

Gilipin was working with a crew on an invasive species removal project on the upper Illinois River. The 109-pound monster was caught in his net, and Illinois and IGFA regulations dictate that fish caught with nets are not eligible for record status.

Bighead carp are a non-native invasive species that has, unfortunately, become well-established in Illinois. A native to Eastern China, bighead carp were introduced into the United States in 1973 with the intent that they would control aquatic vegetation and limit algae growth. The carp did more damage than good, however, reproduced rapidly in the next decade, and firming lodged an established population in the waters of the Mississippi River and the Illinois River.

The bighead carp is very similar to the better-known silver carp, with a large, narrow body and eyes that project downward. It can be distinguished by the darker coloration on its side—a dark gray fading to white toward the underside, and with dark blotches on the sides.

They are voracious filter-feeders (they eat plankton that is filtered from the water) that out-compete native species for food. Bighead carp grow fast and reproduce quickly. Each female deposits about 500,000 eggs during every spawning cycle.

Efforts to reduce their numbers have included a variety of tactics including electro-shocking waterways, contracting with commercial fishermen, and rebranding the carp with a more consumer-friendly (and palatable) title of copi.

The Illinois River Biological Station research facility was working to reduce carp numbers when the whopper carp was netted.

"One of the commercial netting crews we work with to reduce invasive carp populations in the upper Illinois River caught an absolute GIANT this week near Morris IL," the organization wrote in a Facebook post. "This 109# carp won't be causing any more problems for native fish and mussels! This fish was caught a day after the same crew caught a 90# fish in the same location."

Despite being ineligible for any official records, it is still one of the largest bighead carp ever caught and measured.

Just last month, another massive bighead carp was caught in Oklahoma, but that one also isn't going to make the official record books. Although angler Brian Baker's carp was 28 pounds heavier than the current IGFA fishing world record, it was foul-hooked—meaning not hooked through the mouth—which disqualifies it from snagging any records.