Fishing Record Fish

College Student Catches State-Record Bowfin on Her Second Cast of the Day

"I've won some bass tournaments ... but that bowfin was the best fight I've ever had from any fish"
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A West Virginia angler holds up the new state-record bowfin.
Lauren Noble holds up the new West Virginia state-record bowfin, which weighed 10.62 pounds. Photo courtesy Lauren Noble

Marshall University undergrad Lauren Noble had just started fishing on March 12 when she got a solid strike on her second cast of the afternoon. The fish put a deep bend in her plug rod and fought doggedly in the backwater slough off the Ohio River in West Virginia.  

“We were after bass or stripers, and I’d cast one of my favorite square-bill red-and-black crankbaits with 15-pound test fluorocarbon line — and wham, I got a hit,” Noble, who lives in Letart, tells Outdoor Life.

At first, she thought she had a bass or a striper. But when the fish jumped and cleared the surface, she and her boyfriend, Zachary Fields, saw that it was a massive bowfin (also known as a mudfish).

“It came completely out of the water, then went deep again and really fought hard,” she says. “I told Zachary to get the net, and when I brought it to our boat he scooped it up. I don’t think I’d have caught that fish without him using a net — that fish had some sharp teeth.”

West Virginia anglers with the new state-record bowfin.
After weighing the fish on a certified scale, Noble and her boyfriend Zachary Fields released the bowfin back into the Ohio River.

Photograph courtesy Lauren Noble

They unhooked the bowfin, laughing and celebrating, when Fields mentioned that it could be big enough to break the state record. He called his friend Adam Russell, who used to work in the fisheries division for the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

“He looked at a picture of our fish and right away said it was a record,” Noble says. “So, we put it in our livewell and called DNR to report what we had.”

The anglers met WVDNR officer Jeff Hansbarger at a gas station in Conway. Hansbarger had a certified scale with him, so he weighed and measured the fish, and then helped the anglers fill out the paperwork.

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The bowfin’s certified weight of 10.62 pounds makes Noble the new state record holder by weight for the species. The WVDNR also recognizes length records, and Noble’s 30.2-inch fish wasn’t quite long enough to beat out the previous length record, a 32.25-inch bowfin caught in 1994 by angler Donald Newcomb.

A West Virginia angler holds up the new state-record bowfin.
Another shot of Noble’s record-breaking bowfin.

Photograph courtesy Lauren Noble

With the record official, Noble and Fields returned the bowfin to their livewell and drove back to the Ohio River. The fish was still “alive and frisky,” according to Noble, so they released it back into the river around 10:45 p.m.

Noble, who’s fished up and down the East Coast and has competed in local bass tournaments, says after landing that state-record fish, she might have to target bowfin more often.

“Mostly we target bass, and I’ve won some bass tournaments, with my best prize a $1,000 check. But that bowfin was the best fight I’ve ever had from any fish.”