Gene Armstrong decided to try paddlefish angling for the first time on Cherokee Lake. Little did the Hawkins County native know his first catch of the species would etch his name into the Tennessee State Anglers Record Book.
Mr. Armstrong landed what the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has certified a Class A (Sport Fishing Method) state record 95-pound paddlefish. It measured 69.6 inches in length.
The 20-year old Mr. Armstrong decided to go out for a Saturday evening fishing trip on April 12 at the Horseshoe Bend section of the lake. He was set for some bank fish fishing, not too far from his home in the Church Hill community.
The outing began on a good note as he quickly caught a pair of hybrid striped bass. His good start propelled him to make the effort to give catching a paddlefish a shot.
“I had never fished for a paddlefish, so I thought it was a good time to give it a try,” Mr. Armstrong said. “I did not know what to expect, but certainly it turned out well.”
Fishing in what Mr. Armstrong estimated to be 60-70 feet of water, he used a three-prong treble hook on a 20-pound test line. He quickly got some contact and what began was an approximately 45-minute ordeal as he worked to land what proved to be his trophy fish.
“The pole was bent over pretty good,” Mr. Armstrong said. “There was a time when I thought it was going to break, but luckily it didn’t.”
Mr. Armstrong got the fish on the bank at around 5:30 p.m. Several other fishermen were in the area, and ironically, one was the angler who was the record holder prior to Mr. Armstrong. Stephen Criss was the holder of the record, with his catch of 81 pounds, 12 ounces on March 4, 2012. It was Mr. Criss who suggested they weigh the fish. After it was weighed, the process began to getting the catch certified as the new state record.
Mr. Armstrong had the fish weighed on a certified scale at the Hawkins County Farmers Co-Op in Rogersville. Bart Carter, Region IV TWRA fisheries coordinator, inspected the fish and the submission was made to the TWRA Fisheries Division in Nashville.
The paddlefish is the second largest fish caught for the Class A section of the record book. Only a blue catfish weighing 112 pounds caught at Lock C on the Cumberland River by Robert F. Lewis stands larger.
The Class B paddlefish record is 120 pounds held by John T. Johnson. It came on the Blue Hole section of Center Hill Lake in 1982. Class B includes those methods other than rod and reel.
Criteria to be considered for a state record fish can be found in the 2014 Tennessee Fishing Guide. The guide is available at hunting and fishing agents, TWRA regional offices, or online at the TWRA website, tnwildlife.org.