A Georgia angler in Lake Hartwell recently broke the less than one-year-old South Carolina state record for striped bass by 3 1/2 pounds with a 59-pound, 8-ounce "monster."
Terry McConnell, 50-year-old paint and body shop owner from Eastanolle, Ga., south of Toccoa fishing in Lake Hartwell on a cold and blustery Sunday, Feb 3 was drift fishing with live blueback herring from free line in a pocket of big water near the dam when the big striper hit about 11:30 a.m. McConnell hung on as the huge fish right away stripped some 150 yards of 20-pound-test monofilament from his 6500 Ambassadeur baitcasting reel heading toward trees where many large stripers had been lost by anglers before. The angler with his 7-foot Ugly Stick stopped the snag-bound striper just in time, fought the fish carefully to the boat and boated him by hand.
Continuing to fish for two more hours after the potentially record-setting catch, McConnell and his fishing partner Tim Hedden took the fish to Garrett's Fishing and Marine near Portman Shoals and had the fish weighed - 59-pounds, 8-ounces - on state certified scales in the presence of several witnesses who signed a scrap of paper that was immediately notarized. The following day the striped bass was lifted from the ice cooler and certified officially as the new state record - exceeding the standing record by 3 1/2 pounds - by Dan Rankin, regional fisheries biologist for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Clemson. The fish had a total length of 47 1/8 inches and a girth of 32 1/2 inches. McConnell said it essentially "maxed out" a set of 60-pound scales aboard his boat when weighed initially.
McConnell's fish replaces as South Carolina's all-tackle record for freshwater striped bass (Morone saxatilis) a 56-pound striped bass caught by James Robinson of McCormick on March 24, 2001, from Lake Russell in Abbeville County. Sam Porter of Greenville held the previous state record for striped bass with a 55-pound, 12-ounce fish caught in 1993 from Lake Thurmond. Porter's striper surpassed by 12 ounces the long-standing record set in 1963 in Lake Moultrie by "Tiny" Lund, the late stock car driver.
Record-setter McConnell has fished Lake Hartwell for striped bass for near 12 years running and caught a number of impressive fish now displayed on one wall of his body shop, including a 45-pounder and a 50-pounder. He caught a near-state record a few years back, a 54-pound, 14-ounce fish. He releases most of the big stripers he catches - a number of 40 pounders - in the hopes that it will pay off down the road. "If you let them grow, maybe somebody else will get a chance at it," McConnell said.
Anglers who think they have a new state or world record freshwater fish should take it as soon as possible to the nearest set of state certified scales - such as grocery store scales. Two people at least 18 years old should witness the weighing of a potential state record fish. The witnesses will need to sign a state affidavit form once the angler obtains it from the DNR, so be sure to get the witnesses' addresses and phone numbers.
If you think you've caught a state record fish, take immediate steps to preserve the fish until a state fisheries biologist can verify it. It can be placed on ice, but freezing is preferred. Lightly wet the fish and wrap it in a dark, plastic bag. If possible, take a picture of the fish while it is still fresh for additional documentation. To record the fish officially, contact Shirley Clark, Freshwater Fish Records Program, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, (803) 734-3943.
The DNR in Columbia maintains all-tackle sportfishing records for freshwater fish and bowfishing records for a few species of nongame freshwater fish. No records are kept for individual line-test categories, for individual bodies of water, or for fish caught in nongame devices. Bowfishing records are kept for three species: common carp, bowfin and longnose gar.
Freshwater all-tackle sportfishing records are kept for 32 species: Striped Bass, White Bass, Hybrid Bass, White Perch, Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Redeye Bass, Bluegill (Bream), Shellcracker, Redbreast, Warmouth, Flier, Pumpkinseed, White Crappie, Black Crappie, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Sauger, Yellow Perch, Walleye, Chain Pickerel (Jackfish), Redfin Pike, Muskellunge (Muskie), Blue Catfish, Bullhead Catfish, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, White Catfish, Mudfish (Bowfin) and American Shad.
Fish eligible for consideration by the South Carolina Freshwater Sportfishing Records Program must be caught by sport means, using standard tackle or pole and line or, in the case of bowfishing, bow and arrow. Fish caught in nets and traps or on trotlines and set hooks will not be considered.
- Written by Mike Creel -