Oklahoma dad's paddlefish catch breaks record — fish was tagged in 1997

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Call it a Watters world record.

Oklahoma dad Cory Watters and his 9-year-old son Stetson reeled in a world-record 151.9-pound paddlefish Thursday morning on Keystone Lake, according to the state’s Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). It was almost 6 feet long.

Watters found a band on the animal – but wildlife authorities said it wasn’t theirs.

It turns out that Oklahoma State University researchers tagged it back on Jan. 4, 1997 – when it weighed just 7 pounds and was about 2 feet long — making it more than 23 years old.

Oklahoma dad Cory Watters and his 9-year-old son Stetson reeled in a world-record 151.9-pound paddlefish Thursday morning on Keystone Lake.
(Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC))

Paddlefish have a lifespan of up to 50 years and are found in waters between Montana and Louisiana, according to the ODWC. In 1992, state biologists began reintroducing paddlefish into waters where they had disappeared due to the construction of dams blocking off their annual movements.

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Fishing for them in Oklahoma requires a permit, which is free to obtain.

Officials said fishing guide Jeremiah Mefford called them to report the record-setting catch on behalf of his client, Watters.

A state wildlife biologist met up with Mefford, Watters and his son and officially measured the fish – confirming that it did indeed break the world record — before they let it go back into the lake.

It turns out that Oklahoma State University researchers tagged it back on Jan. 4, 1997 – when it weighed just 7 pounds and was about 2 feet long — making it more than 23 years old.
(Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation)

A Facebook commenter asked the ODWC how the fish was able to be kept alive while authorities were on the way to confirm its size.

“They actually swam in the water with the fish until the biologist got there,” the ODWC replied. “It was only out of the water for a very short amount of time to weigh and went right back in”

Authorities said they tracked it for a short while with sonar to make sure it swam off well.

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Watters’ catch broke a record set just a month ago in the same lake, according to ODWC officials.

James Lukehart of Edmond snagged a 146-pound, 11-ounce paddlefish on June 28 – also measuring nearly 6 feet long. That fish was released as well, authorities said.

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