SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — It was Caitlin Lukehart’s turn to snag the next paddlefish.
But she was too tired from already catching several big ones, so she let her husband have the next turn on the pole.
That twist of fate Sunday gave James Lukehart a likely world record paddlefish weighing 146 pounds, 11 ounces. It also broke the current Oklahoma paddlefish record by several pounds.
Lukehart snagged the behemoth at Keystone Lake, a portion of the Arkansas River west of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Guide Jeremiah Mefford said he saw the huge fish on his fish finder, but it was sheer luck that Lukehart was able to snag it.
“It was his first time out and he was the lucky recipient of a monster,” Mefford said. “It was extremely windy, with winds blowing 20-25 mph, with very powerful rolling waves.”
Despite the rough conditions, it didn’t take Lukehart long to get the fish up to the boat, in part because of the way the fish was hooked.
“It was snagged towards the top half of the fish,” Mefford recalled. “When they’re hooked that way, they don’t have a tendency to pull that long.”
Suspecting it might be a possible world record paddlefish, Mefford motored to a nearby boat ramp and called the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and Conservation, and a fisheries biologist met them to officially weigh the paddlefish.
It eclipsed by more than two pounds the 144-pound paddlefish caught in a Kansas farm pond that currently holds the world record.
Mefford said the conservation biologist estimated the fish to be 25 to 35 years old. It was still actively swimming, and its hook injury wasn’t too severe, so the biologist allowed the fish to be released back into the lake.
“The fish spent very little time out of water, just enough to get some pictures,” Mefford said.
Keystone Lake in Oklahoma isn’t the only place where huge paddlefish reside.
In March 2015 Missouri resident Andy Belobraydic caught a 140-pound, 9-ounce paddlefish during his first snagging trip on the James River arm of Table Rock Lake.
It broke the previous Missouri paddlefish record of 139 pounds, 4 ounces caught in 2002, also at Table Rock Lake.