This angler caught a behemoth paddlefish on Valentine's Day, making for a pretty sweet day of fishing on Grand Lake in Oklahoma.
Rob Rider celebrated Valentine's Day not with his sweetheart, but with a sweetheart of a fish. Rider scored the new Grand Lake rod and reel record paddlefish.
Check off one bucket list goal for Rider. He says he wanted to catch at least a 100-pounder. Little did he realize, on this day, he would totally smash that goal by catching a massive 121-pound paddlefish. The lunker sported a 43-inch girth and measured 52.5 inches from the eye to the fork in the tail.
"My goal was to catch one in the top 10 for the lake, which has to be at least 100 pounds," Rider told Tulsa World. "When we got this one on the boat and I couldn't even lift it we thought, 'Oh! Uh-oh! This could be it.'"
"I'd been snagging paddlefish on the Missouri River in Nebraska for many years and never got one over 40 pounds," he said. "I heard about the fish down here and had to come."
So, Rider moved from his home in Dent, Minnesota, to Grand Lake, Oklahoma, where the weather is warmer and the spoonbill fishing is very good.
Paddlefish are filter feeders. They feed on plankton and don't take lures. They're caught by snagging with bare, barbless hooks. However, anglers need to know the fish's behavior to be able to catch the odd-looking critters at the right depth.
Rider hooked the fish a few inches in front of the tail, making for an extra-tough fight.
"It took about 30 seconds just to stop her on that first run," he said. "I had 348 feet of line out on the clicker by the time I got her stopped. Twice she ran back toward the boat and I thought I lost her, I mean at least 50 cranks on the reel and I had slack line piling up on the surface. I was like, 'Oh my god, I lost her! Oh my god,' but I'd catch up and that hook would hit her in the tail and off she'd go again. It was a miracle I got her in, I should have lost her twice."
Brandon Brown, Paddlefish Program Coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, weighed and measured Rider's fish. Brown also indicated big fish like this are typically sterile, though the reasons for their sterility are somewhat unclear.
"We really don't know for sure," Brown said. "They devote so much energy to reproduction and if they don't have to do that and they just sit in the lake and feed they can get very large. Some of those really big fish you can cut them open and literally they'll have a 5-gallon bucket of fat inside."
Grand Lake's biggest paddlefish was taken with a trotline in 1992 and weighed 134 pounds. The state rod and reel record is a 125-pound, 7-ounce fish taken from the Arkansas River in 2011.
Rider says another one of his fishing goals is to catch a giant catfish (maybe even a Grand Lake record). This year another Oklahoma angler pulled a massive 82.7-pound blue catfish from Fort Gibson Lake.
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