New State-Record Paddlefish Is the Largest Fish in the Tennessee Record Book

“It took the two of us three tries to get it in the boat. I’m a little feller and that fish weighed more than me”
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Henry Dyer with the largest fish ever recorded in Tennessee. courtesy of TWRA

East Tennessee angler Henry Dyer was out fishing on Cherokee Lake Thursday evening when he caught the biggest fish of his life and made Tennessee fishing history. Dyer’s 149-pound paddlefish has been accepted as the new state-record for the species, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. But that’s not all. Looking at the state’s record book, the giant paddlefish also happens to be the largest fish (of any species) ever recorded in the Volunteer State.

“It’s a big deal, at least in my mind it is,” TWRA assistant chief of fisheries Jason Henegar told reporters Tuesday.

Dyer was fishing with his guide buddy Brian Townsend when he made the historic catch. And while the two anglers have snagged paddlefish in the past, that wasn’t their original intention last week. They started out fishing for bass after launching their boat on Cherokee Lake.

“I don’t snag for paddlefish a lot,” said Townsend. “We’d just gone down there to try and catch some stripers or hybrids, but we saw other people snagging for paddlefish so [we] decided we’d try it.”

In hindsight, it was the right decision, and it didn’t take long for Dyer to snag a true giant. He was using a heavy rod and a Penn reel spooled with 80-pound test—a setup that he’d nicknamed “Old Blue.”  

“When I snagged that thing, I thought I’d hung on a stump and then all of a sudden it just took off,” Dyer told ABC-9 News in Chattanooga. “I was in the back of the boat and it was all I could do to hold onto it.”

Roughly 35 minutes later, after holding on through multiple long runs, Dyer got the fish to the side of the boat, where Townsend gaffed it. But it was too big for Townsend to haul over the gunnel on his own.

“Then he hollered, ‘Help me!’” Dyer continued. “I grabbed another gaff, and it took the two of us three tries to get it in the boat. I’m a little feller and that fish weighed more than me.”

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Stretched across the tailgate, Dyer's paddlefish was over six feet long. courtesy of TWRA

The two anglers brought the fish to the truck and drove to the nearest certified scale they could find, which was located at Hawkins Farmers Coop in Rogersville. The 149-pound fish measured 79 and 5/8 inches long with a 44-inch girth.

Dyer caught the fish on April 14, and TWRA made the record official on April 18. Dyer’s paddlefish replaces the previous state-record: a 120-pound paddlefish caught last year by Tennessee angler Chad Collins. That fish also came from Cherokee Lake.

Dyer’s paddlefish now sits at the very top of the Tennessee fishing record book as the largest catch in recorded history. The No. 2 spot belongs to a 130-pound blue catfish that was caught from Ft. Loudon Lake in 1976.

Snagging Paddlefish in Tennessee

American paddlefish are plankton eaters. Because they don’t strike lures, the only real way to catch them is by snagging (or pulling large treble hooks through the water). The prehistoric species is protected throughout their native range, and snagging is only allowed in certain states during brief periods.

Read Next: How To Catch Giant Paddlefish with Giant Hooks

TWRA regulations allow anglers to snag paddlefish on Cherokee Lake during a short, two-week window from April 1 to 15. The limit there is one paddlefish per day.