I want to mention here that our listing of state record fish has been updated and placed on our Game & Parks website, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/fishing/pdfs/recordfish.pdf . I am not going to review all of the new records from 2011, but I will give you a summary.
We had 23 fish certified as state records in 2011. If you look at the list close enough you will find only 21 new records listed as only the current records are listed there and we had two record Chinook salmon caught by hook and line in 2011 and two record white bass taken by underwater spear-fishing in 2011 (both of the white bass were taken by the same diver, Dustin Noble of Gothenburg). In 2011 ten fish were recognized as new records for underwater spear-fishing, seven new records for bow-fishing, four new records taken by hook & line and two new records taken by surface spearing. We continue to have more fish submitted for records each year in the spear-fishing and bow-fishing categories because there are not as many folks who take fish by those methods and for some species no records have been established, yet. There has been far more activity in the hook & line category over the years and the state record bar has been set high for most species.
The smallest fish that qualified as a state record in 2011 was a 3 ounce creek chub taken by bow-fishing.
I believe the most impressive thing about that state record fish is that Shawn Church from Elwood was able to hit it with an arrow.
The biggest fish certified as a new state record in 2011 was the 107 pound 12 ounce paddlefish taken from that Missouri River last fall.
I believe last fall was the first time Louis Maring from Merna had ever participated in our paddlefish snagging season. His first time resulted in one of the largest fish ever documented from Nebraska waters!
The Missouri River produced some other surprises last fall as we had two state record Chinook salmon caught from those waters. Chinooks have been stocked in Nebraska waters in the past, but there are no waters where anyone could expect to catch a Chinook salmon now. That is there were no Chinooks swimming in Nebraska waters until last year’s flooding brought some down from the Dakotas. So, a new state record Chinook salmon would have to have been one of the least expected state records from last year.
I am going to vote for Tyler Ciurej’s hook & line record goldfish as the prettiest state record taken in 2011.
You can see a list of state record rules and an application form in any copy of the 2011-2012 Fishing Guide, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/fishing/guides/fishguide/pdf/FishGuide.pdf . In the Fishing Guide you can also see a list of species and their respective state record weights. Take a look at that list and you will see which species do NOT have a fish that has been recognized as a record, yet. Those open records are mostly found in the bow-fishing, underwater and surface spear-fishing categories.
Now, just for the fun of it. . . . I have heard a lot of speculation about Nebraska’s hook & line records and which species might have their records broken. So, let me finish this rambling post by “handicapping” and commenting on our hook & line records. Now, I am no gambler nor handicapper and I really have no idea how to go about determining the odds of new state records being caught, so let me just rank the chances of a new state record this way: “Good Chance”, “Maybe”, “Chances are Slim and None”, and “Better Chance of Winning the Lottery”.
Alewife — 3.5 oz. — Maybe– alewives can be found in McConaughy and Merritt. In marine waters they can grow quite a bit larger and it may be possible to catch one larger than 3.5 oz.
Largemouth Bass — 10 lbs. 11 oz.–Slim and none–10 pounds 11 ounces is darned big for a largemouth bass in northern waters like Nebraska. This record has stood for years and I am betting it stands for a lot more.
Rock Bass– 2 lbs. 4 oz. –Slim and none–we have some rock bass in Nebraska waters including some big fish, but 2 pounds 4 ounces is a darned big rock bass.
Smallmouth Bass– 7 lbs. 4 oz.–Slim and none–Ditto, see my comments about largemouth bass and rock bass just above.
Spotted Bass–3 lbs. 12 oz.–Maybe–Elwood Reservoir has had a good population of spotted bass in the past. With higher and more consistently high water levels, could a new state record be a possibility in coming years?
Striped Bass– 64 lbs. 15 oz.–Better chance of winning the lottery–Our state record for striped bass is HUGE for inland waters, and we just plain do not have many stripers left in the state. If you want to catch any, there might be a few left in McConaughy or might a big one show up in the same place the state record did–Sutherland Reservoir inlet?
Striper Hybrid–20 lbs. 1 oz.–Good chance–There are some big wipers swimming in McConaughy right now and I believe with high water levels and an abundance of cool-water prey (i.e. alewives) there could be a new state record wiper swimming in McConaughy right now.
White Bass–5 lbs.–Slim and none–Again, a 5 pound white bass is near the ultimate size for the species and it would take a very rare fish to beat that record. Maybe Merritt, McConaughy or our upper Missouri River could produce such a fish, but I believe it would be a long shot.
Yellow Bass–1 lb. 7 oz.–Slim and none–Yellow bass are an introduced exotic species found only in a few Nebraska waters. They can grow larger than our record, but in most of our waters they stunt and are not large at all.
Bowfin–8 lbs.–Maybe–Bowfin can grow a lot bigger than our hook & line record. With last year’s Missouri River flooding, could there be some more surprises out there?
Bigmouth Buffalo–64 lbs–Maybe–Ditto, see my comments just above for bowfin.
Black Buffalo–41 lbs.–Maybe–Ditto.
Smallmouth Buffalo– 56 lbs. 3 oz.–Maybe–Ditto.
Black Bullhead–3 lbs. 15 oz.–Maybe–Larger black bullheads have been documented in other states.
Burbot–6 lbs. 9 oz.–Maybe–See my comments for bowfin just above.
Bighead Carp –53 lbs. 3 oz.–Good chance–Bighead carp get a lot larger than our hook & line record and I am afraid we have plenty of them swimming in the Missouri River downstream from Gavins Point Dam. The biggest challenge will be getting one to take a hook in its mouth so it can be considered a legal catch (snagging is prohibited).
Common Carp–33 lbs. 12 oz.–Maybe–Common carp get larger than our hook & line record and could be swimming in a number of Nebraska waters. The best chance would be a water body with only a few large carp. However, this could be one of the hardest fish to catch as carp and especially large carp are one of the smartest fish that swim in our waters.
Grass Carp–64 lbs.–Maybe–Similar to my comments on common carp just above, they can get larger, but a state record specimen is not going to be easy to catch.
Hybrid Grass Carp –OPEN–Slim and none–We have no recognized hook & line record for hybrid grass carp, but I would have to tell you that documentation of a true hybrid is going to be difficult if not impossible.
Silver Carp–OPEN–Good chance–Plenty of silver carp swimming in the Missouri River below Gavins. The hard part will be getting one to bite on a hook (see my comments above for bighead carp).
Quillback–13 lbs. 10 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line record for quillback carpsucker is larger than the all-tackle world record recognized by the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (FWFHOF), http://www.freshwater-fishing.org/index.php . There is not much chance we are going to see that broken.
River Carpsucker–13 lbs. 4 oz.–Slim and none–Ditto what I said above for quillback carpsucker.
Channel Catfish–41 lbs. 8 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line record for channel catfish is very respectable. They can grow larger, but with the angling pressure most of our waters receive, we likely are not going to see a new state record channel cat anytime soon. If it is ever to happen, folks are going to have to release all of the big channel cats they catch.
Flathead Catfish–80 lbs.–Maybe–What I said above about the catch & release of big channel cats applies to our big flatties too. However, I believe there might be a slightly better chance of a new state record flathead being caught because they are less likely to be caught unless a person is targeting them, and we have some large waters that could harbor some ginormous flatheads (e.g. lower Missouri River, Loup Power Canal, Tri-County Canal). But, a big flattie will have a hard time reaching state record proportions on any waters where we have set-liners working. Sorry to any set-liners I just offended, but set-line fishing is primarily a harvest fishery and we ain’t gonna see a new state record unless there are some darned big flatheads that are caught & released.
Blue Catfish–100 lbs. 8 oz.–Maybe–We have had larger blue catfish sampled from Missouri River waters. It is possible a new state record blue is swimming in Nebraska waters right now. The hook & line blue catfish record we have on the books was taken by snagging when it was legal to take that fish in that way. I wish someone would bump that record out of the books.
Stonecat– 5.2 oz.–Slim and none–How many anglers even know what a stonecat is? They can be found in some Nebraska rivers and streams, but even then I am betting our hook & line record would be hard to beat as a 5 ounce stonecat is a very respectable stonecat.
Creek Chub–9.5 oz.–Maybe–There may be larger creek chubs swimming in some Nebraska river or stream and one of these days some kid might catch one.
Black Crappie–4 lbs. 8 oz.–Slim and none–Our record is darned nice, and the chances of catching one larger will not be good. If we ever see this record broken, I would predict it would come from private water just like the existing record did.
White Crappie–4 lbs. 1 oz.–Slim and none–Ditto what I just said for black crappie.
Freshwater Drum–29 lbs. 6 oz.–Maybe–I believe our current hook & line record drum was a fish spawned during a major flood event on the Missouri River. Freshwater drum certainly can grow a lot larger than our state record and might we see some more Missouri River surprises in the years following the flood of 2011?
American Eel–5 lbs.–Maybe–Eels rarely show up in Nebraska waters, but occasionally they do migrate up the Missouri River as far as Nebraska, and they do grow larger than our current hook & line state record.
Longnose Gar–20 lbs. 7 oz.–Maybe–Longnose gar can grow larger than our current record.
Shortnose Gar–6 lbs. 14 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line state record is larger than the all-tackle world record recognized by the FWFHOF. A bigger one ain’t likely.
Spotted Gar–4 lbs. 8 oz.–Maybe–Spotted gar can get a lot larger, but spotted gar are not common in Nebraska waters, and I suspect they grow a lot larger in warmer waters to the south where they are also much more common.
Goldeye–3 lbs. 15.5 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line record is larger than the all-tackle world record recognized by the FWFHOF.
Goldfish– 3 lbs. 7 oz.–Slim and none–Ditto what I just said for goldeye.
Skipjack Herring– 2 lbs.–Maybe–Skipjack herring are another species that only occasionally migrates up the Missouri River as far as Nebraska. They can occasionally be caught in the Gavins Point tailwaters and they certainly can grow larger than our current hook & line record.
Muskellunge–41 lbs. 8 oz.–Good chance–We have had excellent success stocking muskies in Nebraska waters since we switched to stocking all pure-bred muskellunge, fish that are raised on minnows until they are a year old and 12-14 inches long when they are stocked. We switched to that stocking strategy in the late ’90′s and I believe there are some of those fish that may now be reaching state record proportions, especially in Merritt Reservoir.
Tiger Muskellunge–33 lbs. 5 oz.–Slim and none–Tiger muskies are northern pike X muskellunge hybrids. We phased out all tiger muskie stocking years ago and there likely are hardly any of those fish left. There are some waters where a tiger muskie hybrid could be produced in the wild, but it is extremely unlikely that we will see one larger than our hook & line record.
Paddlefish–107 lbs. 12 oz.–Maybe–Our new hook & line state record paddlefish caught last fall was most likely a fish that traveled downstream from one of the Missouri River reservoirs during last year’s flooding. Could there be other big paddlefish out there?
Sacramento Perch–2 lbs. 8 oz.–Better chance of winning the lottery–Sacramento perch were introduced to some Nebraska waters years ago. I know of none and I doubt there are any swimming in any Nebraska waters now.
White Perch–2 lbs. 6 oz.–Slim and none–We certainly have white perch in some Nebraska waters, but most of them never get close to weighing a pound, let alone over 2 pounds. The biggest white perch are most likely to be produced a short time after they invade a body of water and I am afraid for the waters where we now have white perch, that time passed a long time ago. And we do NOT want them to expand to any other waters!
Yellow Perch–2 lbs. 10.75 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line state record is very respectable and since most good-sized yellow perch that are caught from Nebraska waters end up going home in a bucket, I doubt we will ever see a larger one caught.
Grass Pickerel–5.75 oz.–Maybe–Grass pickerel are a small member of the pike family and are actually native to Nebraska waters. If someone was to look hard enough, they might be able to find one that would be big enough to be a new record.
Northern Pike–30 lbs. 1 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line state record pike was a fish that grew fat and happy on stocked rainbow trout in Terry’s Pit in Gering. I suppose there is a possibility of a similar fish being produced in some Nebraska water, but we have not seen anything even close to our state record since it was caught. Chances of a pike escaping harvest until it reached state record proportions are not good. Who would release a 20-pound+ pike? That likely would have to happen to produce a fish over 30 pounds.
European Rudd–2 lbs. 12 oz.–Maybe–Rudd are another non-native exotic species. They can grow quite large and they will occasionally bite on a hook. Our hook & line record is respectable, but maybe Box Butte Reservoir could produce a still larger fish?
Chinook Salmon–7 lbs. 5 oz.–Maybe–A year ago I would have told you there was little chance of this hook & line record being broken, but then the Missouri River flooded and surprises started showing up in our waters. Maybe there are more?
Coho Salmon–5 lbs. 12 oz.–Better chance of winning the lottery–There are no Cohos in Nebraska waters and little chance of them showing up here.
Kokanee Salmon–4 lbs. 2 oz.–Better chance of winning the lottery–Ditto what I just said for Coho salmon.
Sauger–8 lbs. 5 oz.–Better chance of winning the lottery–Our hook & line sauger record was taken back in 1961, back when technology did NOT exist to determine the actual genetics of sauger and saugeye. Chances are our hook & line record sauger was a saugeye as walleye and sauger do hybridize in the wild and it is not at all uncommon in our Missouri River. Research has shown that the true identity of walleye, sauger and saugeye in our Missouri River can be hard to determine with certainty based solely on external characteristics. Pure-bred sauger simply do not get as large as our hook & line record.
Saugeye–8 lbs. 14 oz.–Maybe–Saugeye do grow larger than our hook & line record. The problem is any fish of that size likely would be considered to be a walleye, and DNA testing would be necessary to verify the identity as a true F1 hybrid X walleye hybrid.
Gizzard Shad –4 lbs. 7.75 oz.–Slim and none–Yes, adult gizzard shad can get as large as our hook & line record, but they do not get much larger and they are rarely caught on a hook.
Golden Shiner–14 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line record is a darned big golden shiner.
Shovelnose Sturgeon–4 lbs. 5 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line record is very respectable, and it will be hard to beat, especially with a pure-bred shovelnose.
Longnose Sucker–2 lbs. 9 oz.–Maybe–Longnose suckers can get a lot larger, but they are not common in Nebraska waters and most anglers are not aware of them (i.e. a sucker is a sucker).
Blue Sucker–18 lbs. 14 oz.–Maybe–We have had biologists sample larger blue suckers on the Missouri River. I would say the chances of beating our hook & line state record would be good, but who is going to set out to catch a state record blue sucker?
Shorthead Redhorse–2 lbs. 12 oz.–Maybe–Shorthead redhorse suckers can get a lot larger than our hook & line state record.
White Sucker–5 lbs. 14 oz.–Slim and none–It would take a white sucker of nearly 6 pounds or larger to beat our hook & line record; that is a darned big white sucker.
Bluegill–2 lbs. 13 oz.–Slim and none–Our hook & line record is darned big for a bluegill from northern waters and that is why it has been on the books for 34 years.
Green Sunfish–1 lb. 8 oz.–Slim and none–Ditto my comments just above for bluegill.
Hybrid Sunfish–1 lb. 15 oz.–Slim and none–Ditto.
Orangespotted Sunfish–3 oz.–Slim and none–A 3 ounce orangespotted sunfish is actually a darned nice orangespot and that record is going to be hard to beat.
Pumpkinseed–11.25 oz.–Maybe–Pumpkinseeds can get a little bigger than our state record. Maybe there is a fish like that somewhere out in the sandhills?
Redear Sunfish–1 lb. 10 oz.–Maybe–Redears certainly can grow larger than our hook & line record, but they obtain those sizes in places a lot warmer than Nebraska.
Brook Trout–5 lbs. 1 oz.–Better chance of winning the lottery–Our hook & line record brook trout is HUGE for Nebraska waters and was produced under perfect circumstances. I see little chance of it happening again although I wish it could!
Brown Trout–20 lbs. 1 oz.–Better chance of winning the lottery–Ditto what I said for brook trout just above. I do not see how this record could ever be broken.
Cutthroat Trout–5 lbs. 7 oz.–Slim and none–Currently there are no cutthroats in Nebraska waters. If there ever were again, then it could be possible to see a bigger cuttie; they certainly grow larger than our hook & line record.
Rainbow Trout–14 lbs. 2 oz.–Slim and none–Rainbows can certainly grow a lot larger than our hook & line record, but there is not much chance we will see any fish like that in Nebraska waters.
Tiger Trout–6 oz.–Maybe–Tiger trout are a brook trout X brown trout hybrid and we actually see a few of those fish produced naturally in the Soldiers Creek drainage. Tiger trout can grow a lot larger than our hook & line record.
Walleye–16 lbs. 2 oz.–Maybe–Our hook & line record walleye is another fish that has been on the books for a long time and is a very respectable walleye. However, just a couple of years ago there was a walleye caught from Lake McConaughy that missed the record by only 3 ounces! With the water, habitat conditions and prey base in McConaughy right now, there is a chance a state record walleye could be swimming there right now. Our upper Missouri River would be a long shot to produce a new hook & line record walleye and Merritt would be an even longer shot.
There you go, that is my assessment of the chances of those hook & line records being broken. I am sure some of you will disagree with my opinion, but that does not bother me one bit–go out and prove me wrong! I want to have some new state records to talk about next year!