Fishing Record Fish

Tennessee Angler Snags a 120-Pound Paddlefish, and the New State Record

The new state-record American paddlefish weighed 120 pounds and was caught from East Tennessee’s Cherokee Reservoir
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The new Tennessee state-record paddlefish.
Chad Collins with his 120-pound paddlefish taken from Cherokee Lake in Tennessee. Tennessee Wildlife Agency

Tennessee angler Chad Collins caught a 120-pound American paddlefish last weekend, and the fish has been confirmed as a new state record. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Twitter page, state fisheries biologist John Hammons certified the paddlefish’s weight on April 16.

Collins caught the record paddlefish earlier that day while fishing Cherokee Reservoir, a 28,000-acre lake in Jefferson and Grainger counties. The 120-pounder was 75.5-inches long with a 41.5-inch girth, and it beat out the previous state record of 109 pounds. Coincidentally, that fish was caught out of the same reservoir by angler Leonard Jech almost a year ago to the day on April 13, 2021.

Paddlefish, which are sometimes called spoonbills or shovelbills, are native to the Mississippi River Basin, which stretches from New York to Montana and south to the Gulf of Mexico. They are an ancient species that is mostly boneless and known for being great table fare—with some anglers comparing the fillets to pork chops. Their populations have declined throughout their native range, however, mainly due to habitat alteration and overharvesting. Paddlefish have all but disappeared from four states and parts of Canada, with half the states in its home range listing the species as endangered, threatened, or a species of special concern.

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American paddlefish do not feed readily on bait and other lures, and they are usually caught by snagging. And since the International Game Fish Association does not accept snagging as a legitimate angling method, the IGFA does not recognize any world or line-class records for the species. That being said, the current “world-record” paddlefish is a 164-pounder that was caught by Grant Rader from Oklahoma’s Keystone Lake in June 2021.