There is new resident in the Tennessee Aquarium Nickajack Tank, courtesy of local angler Mark Nichols.
The new resident is a monster 11 lb., 6 oz. largemouth bass captured in the Soddy Creek area on Chickamauga Lake. (photos and video below)
"I caught her on March 16," said Nichols, an avid bass angler. "There were 4 or 5 of us just hanging out fishing from the bank. I caught her on a half-ounce spinnerbait made by Soddy Custom Tackle."
Nichols has caught a lot of bass... some approaching ten pounds. But after plying the waters of Chickamauga Lake for 25 years, he knew this fish was something special. He took measurements to have a replica mount made... and in talking to him, you can tell he really would have enjoyed releasing the fish. But he also knew the beast would make an impressive addition to the Tennessee Aquarium.
"I have asked them to give her back to me whenever she dies," said Nichols, who intends to have a "real" mount made at that time.
Aquarium folks don't like to advertise it, but some of their special fish are dubbed with "pet names." Nichols bass was dubbed "Ms. April." Like all Aquarium fish, she's been held in quarantine since her capture to insure she's eating well and disease-free before being released for public display. As the huge largemouth swam out of the net and into the Nickajack Tank today, Head Aquariast Rob Mottice said, "That's the biggest bass this tank has ever seen."
However as big as she is, the huge bass quickly found a good hiding spot. Several folks wandered around the Nickajack Tank for a hour looking for her. We spotted one bass that MIGHT have been her... but it was hidden in a rock crevasse and was really hard to tell if it was the actual 11 lber. or not.
Local angler and Aquarium Volunteer Bill Hall was on hand. He's one of the folks who dives into the tank every week to hand-feed the fish. He knows them all on a first name basis and said she'll soon acclimate to her new surroundings and won't be so shy.
The Tennessee State Record Largemouth Bass is 14 lbs. 8 ozs., so this fish is a long way from a record. However very, very few Tennessee anglers will ever see a fish this big on the end of their line. But now, thanks to Nichols, they can see one in Tennessee Aquarium.
NewsChannel 9 reporter Kevin Sims and Photographer Adam Watts interview Aquariast Rob Mottice before the transfer. Aquarium PR Guy Thom Benson videotapes as well. Photo by Richard Simms
An Aquarium worker hauls "Ms. April" from her quarantine tank. Workers work fast to try and avoid putting any more stress than necessary on the fish. Photo by Richard Simms
Ms. April on her way from the transport truck to the Nickajack tank. Photo by Richard Simms
Aquarium workers always feel a little bit of a rush anytime they add a new fish to their displays for the public to marvel at. Photo by Todd Stailey, Tennessee Aquarium
After being released into the Nickajack Tank, it really wasn't clear if this was "Ms.April" or not. She stayed sort of sulled up and hidden... and in the tank it's hard to compare size unless she is around other bass. But once she acclimates, there is no doubt that she'll be out and about showing off for Aquarium visitors. Photo by Richard Simms