We are over half way through 2014 and I have not given any updates on the state record fish front.
It is time.
I only have a few to tell you about, might as well start with the first one to cross my desk this year. Back in May, May 10 to be exact, Ethan Wellman of Mead arrowed a blue sucker with his bow. Ethan’s fish weighed 11 pounds 1 ounce and will be a new state record for blue sucker taken by bow-fishing. It bested the old bow-fishing blue sucker record by almost 2 pounds. Ehtan’s blue sucker was taken from the Missouri River in Cedar County.
Then I have to tell you the story about Mark Spitzer. One afternoon near the end of May I was sitting in my office and I got a phone call from a guy who thought he had a state record fish. I do not get those calls every day, but I get quite a few of them. Most end up NOT being state records. This time the guy on the other end of the line said he had a state record yellow bullhead. What went through my mind was, “Yeah right”. By far black bullheads are the most common bullhead in Nebraska. Black bullheads can be quite yellow, especially on the belly, and at times may be mistaken for honest-to-goodness yellow bullheads. Politely, I asked Mark if he was sure he had a yellow bullhead. The answer he gave surprised me–he not only knew he had a yellow bullhead, he knew the key characteristics to identify yellow bullheads from black bullheads (HINT: You have to count anal fin rays and take a close look at the caudal fin). I was talking to a fellow “fish head” and was convinced! I stuck around work after hours to make sure I was present when Mark arrived with his fish.
Sure enough he had a 6 ounce, 9 inch yellow bullhead that he had caught from Dead Timber State Recreation Area. Mark caught his fish on a nightcrawler.
There is more to the story. Mr. Spitzer had traveled to Nebraska all the way from Arkansas just to fish! His hope was to come up and catch a bowfin bigger than the one we have on the books as a state record, an 8-pounder caught from Dead Timber back in 1982. He did not catch any bowfin, and I would have a difficult time telling you of any water in Nebraska where you would have a chance of catching a bowfin right now. However, Mark did know that we had no yellow bullheads caught by hook and line on the record books and after catching and frying a few for supper, he decided to bring one in and have it certified as the record. Oh, he ended up eating bigger yellow bullheads than the one he subsequently had certified as a state record.
One last part to Mark Spitzer’s story. I told you he drove all the way up to Nebraska from Arkansas just to fish and perhaps catch a state record. On the way his car broke down and saddled him with an expensive repair bill. That would have discouraged most, but a 6-ounce yellow bullhead made his trip all worthwhile! At least that is what he told me–made my day!
The last fish I have to tell you about is another relatively rare fish. Smallmouth and bigmouth buffalo are relatively common in Nebraska’s Missouri River and for quite a ways upstream in our Missouri River tributaries and connected waters. Black buffalo are a third species of buffalo and look very much like smallmouth buffalo. Again, in most cases, unless a person really knew their fish, they likely would not recognize a black buffalo. That was not the case for Marlyn Wiebelhaus and his partner on July 2 when Marlyn stuck an arrow in a buffalo that looked a little bit different from the others they had arrowed on that day. In fact, as I understand the story, Marlyn’s partner recognized the fish because he has held the previous bow-fishing record for black buffalo!
Marlyn’s fish weighed 7 pounds 15 ounces, beat the existing bow-fishing black buffalo state record by a pound and a half, and was taken from the Missouri River in Cedar County.
Distinguishing a black buffalo from a smallmouth buffalo is not easy and involves measurements of the head, body depth, body length and a close look at the shape of the body in front of the dorsal fin. Those identification “calls” are left up to fisheries biologists of the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission and are exactly the reason why any potential state record fish must be verified by a Game & Parks fisheries biologist.
That is all I have for now. I usually see a significant amount of activity on the state record front during the summer. That is especially true for the bow-fishing, surface spear and underwater spear-fishing categories. Many of those records are taken in the summer as water levels in Nebraska rivers and streams drop and make those fish more vulnerable to take. So far this summer we have had a relative abundance of precipitation and water levels in most rivers and streams are running higher than they have the past couple of summers.
We will see what the rest of the year brings and you just never know what might happen! That is the case anytime we hit the water, so get out there and see what you might catch. If you think you have a state record fish, rules and an application form are found in every copy of the Fishing Guide. I will not promise you that a fisheries biologist will be immediately available to get a record certified. If that is the case, keep the fish wet, on ice would be great, and it will not lose any weight.
Congratulations to Ethan, Mark and once again to Marlyn, already a holder of at least three bow-fishing state records. To the rest of you, what are you waiting for? GO FISH!