Phillip Albert knew he had a good chance of sticking some big fish the evening of Feb. 20, when he headed out alone on Sangchris Lake in central Illinois. Hunting from his boat in the shallows, the bowfisherman arrowed 29 carp and a giant freshwater drum that was recently confirmed as a state record by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“I had a feeling that Monday night was going to be a great night bowfishing,” Albert wrote in a Facebook post at the time . “I just didn’t know it was going to be record breaking!”
Albert tells Outdoor Life that he used an AMS bowfishing setup paired with a stainless steel Innerloc 3-Barb Grapple Arrow. He says he’s bowfished the lake before and knew it had the potential to put out a record-sized drum. The key was to wait for the right night in late winter, when the big females would be loaded with eggs and getting ready to spawn in shallow water.
“I always knew I could get the state record out of of Sangchris Lake, and I’ve been close a few times,” Albert explains. “There is a small window for bowfishing drum [there]. Late winter, early spring and fall are the only times they seem to be up shallow enough to allow for bowfishing.”
He finally found a big, egg-laden female and says it didn’t take long to boat the drum after he’d shot it. Albert kept the fish overnight and returned to Sangchris Lake State Park the following morning, where he got it weighed on a certified scale. The drum went 20.25 pounds, breaking a six-year-old Illinois bowfishing record.
Freshwater drum are widely distributed throughout North America. Their name comes from the audible drumming sound they make, especially during the spawning season. Albert says he hasn’t eaten freshwater drum before, but according to Michigan Seagrant, they can be good eating depending on the water body and the time of year.
The Bowfishing Association of America lists the world-record freshwater drum as a 39.65-pounder from Alabama. That fish was still smaller than the IGFA All Tackle world-record drum, which weighed more than 50 pounds and was caught in Tennessee’s Nickajack Lake in 1972.