A Colorado angler who caught perhaps the largest crappie ever caught in the state last November has claimed a catch-and-release record.
Eric Alley was targeting bass from a kayak on Lake McKay on Nov. 12 when he spotted what he assumed were three large crappies on his forward-facing sonar unit.
Allie, marketing manager at Eagle Claw Tackle in Denver, hooked one of the fish using a 3.6-inch Berkley flatworm and quickly realized he might have a record-setting crappie on his fishing line.
On Friday, after Colorado Parks and Wildlife informed him that the 18.25-inch black crappie had broken the previous catch-and-release length record, Alley told FTW Outdoors what was going through his mind during the fight:
“It all happened so fast, but it seemed like slow motion if that makes sense. My heart was beating so fast, I was trying to stay cool, and I was terrified at the same time.
“When I broke the surface, I grumbled every time its head shook. Anyone who’s ever chased a crappie knows that they’re known for having thin skin around the rim of their jaw; with a fish that heavy, if you get stuck in the thin parts of its mouth, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
“After what seemed like forever, she felt immediate relief when I swept the net under her and got her out of the water.”
Alley said the crappie weighed 3 pounds, 15 ounces on the scale he keeps on his kayak. He knew he could also break the Colorado weight record (3.48 pounds, set in 2017) if he killed the fish to weigh it somewhere on a certified scale.
But Allee told FTW Outdoors that the fish was so large and impressive-looking that he chose to throw it back after immortalizing the catch in a photograph.
“I didn’t want to kill the fish for the record,” he said. “It’s not that I’m against killing fish, I eat crappie a lot, but I don’t want to kill fish just for the record.
“There’s more to me, too. I practice selective harvesting, and there’s something special about watching the big fish come back.”
Colorado is not known for its giant crappie, but any crappie over three pounds is considered a giant.
For comparison, the world record black crappie in the weight class is 5 pounds, 7 ounces. That fish was caught in Richeison Pond in Tennessee in 2018.
International Game of Fish Assn. Listings where the length (version) record is equivalent to five pieces measuring 37 cm, or about 14.6 inches.
Allee said he had not considered applying to the IGFA for a potentially long record and lamented the fact that he missed the 60-day deadline for submitting records.