Oklahoma Guide Snags New State-Record Bighead Carp
"I don’t mess around with these big fish"
Fishing guide Bryan Baker, 50, of Miami, Oklahoma, snagged a huge invasive bighead carp this week that has been declared the new Oklahoma state-record for the species.
“I was in 12-feet of water when I spotted the huge fish on my boat’s Livescope sonar, made a cast, snagged the fish, and had it at the boat and in it in just six minutes,” Baker tells Outdoor Life. “I don’t mess around with these big fish. So when I got her close to my boat, I grabbed her with my hands and hauled her aboard.”
Oklahoma’s Department of Wildlife Conservation declared Baker’s carp as the state record in a Facebook post last week, with an official weight of 118 pounds, 3 ounces. ODWC has asked anglers to help catch and remove invasive carp from Grand Lake, and anglers such as Baker have rallied to the call.
Baker, who has run Spoonbill Wreckers guide service for 14 years, chiefly targets paddlefish, or spoonbills. But when bighead carp move into the Neosho River, he works to get them.
The river water is so dark the only efficient way to find and catch bighead carp is with Garmin Livescope sonar, says Baker. The Livescope scans the water column ahead of Baker’s 22-foot Lowe aluminum boat to pinpoint fish.
“There’s not that many carp, so I gotta search a good bit to find them,” he says. “But they’re huge, so they show up well. I’ve caught 21 bigheads this year, and on Thursday I caught 11 fish, three of which each weighed over 100 pounds.
But the 118-pound carp was special, and Baker knew it when he first spotted it.
“Three days before I caught her, I was fishing with my buddy Jimbo Hollon and his son Nailrod and we spotted the big girl on my Livescope,” says Baker. “Jimbo saw the fish’s image and said, ‘Holy cow, that fish is the size of a Volkswagen’.”
Baker snagged the fish with heavy-duty tackle, 100-pound test braided line, and a 10/0 barbless treble hook, but lost it.
Days later Baker was fishing the same area again. He spotted what appeared to be the same carp, and snagged it a second time—but lost it again.
“I got her hooked the second time, but the hook tore through her soft flesh,” says Baker. “But 30 minutes later I hooked her again and finally put her in my boat.”
Baker’s 5-foot-long fish officially weighed 118 pounds, 3 ounces, and betters the recently caught Oklahoma 110.1-pound record for bighead carp taken by Gabe Brannick, also from the Neosho River.
Baker says all his bighead carp are caught within two miles of the town of Miami, in Northeast Oklahoma. They’re usually 20 feet deep, but sometimes can be found as shallow as just five feet.
Baker’s carp was taken to a processing plant, and the otoliths, or earstones, of the fish were removed for the state’s biologists.
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“The biologists can take the otoliths and by analyzing its growth rings they can tell how old the carp is, sort of like reading the growth rings in a tree turn,” Baker explains. “They can even learn what rivers the fish was in during its lifetime. It’s pretty incredible what the Oklahoma fishery folks are doing. There are some very smart people here these days doing this work.”