A state record that has been on the books for nearly 34 years has potentially been broken by one lucky fisherman on Melton Hill Reservoir. Angler Stephen Paul not only caught the “fish of ten-thousand casts,” but he caught the pending state record “fish of ten-thousand casts” yesterday evening from the Knox County portion of Melton Hill.
Muskellunge, better known as musky, are a challenging fish to catch, particularly when they get older and wiser. Fortunately for Mr.
Paul however, a giant musky weighing 43 lbs. 14 oz. was aggressive enough to bite his artificial lure around 6 p.m. and provide him with the catch of a lifetime. With him to document the historic catch was his friend Dylan Gano. Mr. Paul also said the fish unfortunately died in his net when it was landed, being the only reason he considered weighing it for a state record. Otherwise, he says he would have released it back into the water.
After the catch was made, the angler contacted TWRA Fisheries Technician Paul Shaw who tried fervently but was unable to find certified scales near the area where the fish was caught. Mr. Shaw then contacted Reservoirs Fisheries Biologist John Hammonds and Regional Fisheries Coordinator Bart Carter, who met Mr. Paul in Dandridge about three hours later to weigh and verify the new pending state record fish. They also measured the fish at 51 3/8 inches in length with a girth of 23 ½ inches. The former state record musky weighing 42 lbs. 8 oz. was caught in Norris Reservoir on April 27, 1983 by angler Kyle F. Edwards.
TWRA Fisheries Biologist Jim Negus estimates the fish to be between 12-15 years old, but says that Melton Hill musky have been known to reach 50 inches by ten years of age. On the contrary, a musky in Wisconsin takes about 17 years to reach 50 inches. Tennessee musky are at the southern end of the species range and consequently, have a faster growth rate than northern musky do. Mr. Hammonds said, “The musky is an apex predator and a tremendous sport fish native to Tennessee. They put on a remarkable fight, once hooked and are typically very difficult to catch. A musky over 50-inches in length is extremely difficult to hook and land, and is considered to be a ‘fish of a lifetime’ for most musky anglers. Congratulations to Steven on his remarkable catch!”
Once the paperwork is certified in TWRA’s Nashville office, the fish will be certified as the new state record.
The fish are present in Melton Hill due to TWRA’s stocking program and are placed into the reservoir annually based on availability of fish. So far, there has been no documented natural reproduction and the fishery in Melton Hill exists due to stocking efforts.