Four Knoxville men went fishing for catfish below the Red Rock Dam Saturday night and instead reeled in a huge, and possibly rare and ancient fish after a nearly two hour struggle.
The fish took the bait off the hook of Bobby Lange’s pole as it was being watched by Jason Baxter, but it took the help of Baxter’s friends Lange, Vince Anderson, and Bryce Thomas to eventually get the fish to shore. Lange had gone to get a lantern and a stringer, and returned to find the fish hooked. Baxter told Lange “this one’s huge!” and Lange went to get a net, soon realized his wasn’t big enough, but fortunately another fisherman had a larger one. The men had the fish near the bank perhaps six times when it “spooked” and ran out at least another 100 feet of line that had to be reeled in. The men were finally able to land the fish, and took it up into the lights to be photographed.
The men believe that the giant fish they caught was a Lake Sturgeon. It was estimated to be over five feet long, weighing between 80 and 100 pounds. The fish was on the banks of the Des Moines River below the Dam for only a few minutes before its release, so accurate measurements couldn’t be taken, but the size of the fish is evident in the cell phone photos presented here (Mr. Lange is 6ft 3 inches tall, and is laying next to the fish in a photo below). The fish was caught with 25 lb test Berkley big game line and Gamakatsu size 6/0 Octopus hooks with perhaps four nightcrawlers. The men estimate that approximately 30 other fishermen watched the fish being caught.
Central College Biology Professor Russ Benedict tells KNIA/KRLS News that Lake Sturgeon are an endangered species in Iowa, and are rarely caught. They are found in the Mississippi River and the rivers that drain into it. He says that large Lake Sturgeons may be over 50 years in age. If caught, they should be released. Large females have the ability to produce many eggs, and given their endangered status, it is important that they survive to reproduce. Benedict adds that the sturgeons are ancient fish that have not changed much in millions of years, and that because most of them live in rivers, they have been impacted by the construction of dams, other modifications to river habitats, over-fishing, and chemical contamination.
All of the men involved with the catch say that Lake Red Rock is a great place to fish, and they regularly speak with people from other states who have come to fish. None had ever seen anything like the fish caught Saturday night.
The men agreed that releasing the fish was the right thing to do, even if it didn’t allow them enough time to record information for an official record. All expressed an interest in catching it again.
Originally published 5/12/2010 2:28pm
Updated 5/12/2010 6:33pm