A boater recently came across a large injured paddlefish that was splashing around on the surface of a popular Arkansas reservoir. According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), which described the paddlefish as “a MONSTER” in a recent Facebook post, it had been hit by the propeller of a passing boat. When it was finally hauled ashore, the fish tipped scales at an astonishing 165 pounds and taped out at 6 feet, 3 inches long.
“The Paddlefish was 75 inches from the tip of its rostrum to the top of its tail,” AGFC’s July 22 Facebook post reads. “The fish is not an official state record because it was not caught with a rod and reel. It is still a fish of a lifetime.”
The boater who found the fish wasn’t identified in the Facebook post, but the AGFC said the person swam out and attempted to rescue it before eventually bringing it ashore. “Unfortunately, this beast of a Paddlefish had its soft spinal cord severed [by the boat prop],” the agency stated. “Paddlefish are considered pre-historic fish because they don’t have any bones made of hard structures. They are made of cartilage, like a shark.”
Beaver Lake—where the massive fish was found—is located in northwest Arkansas about 20 miles east of Bentonville. It is a tailwater fishery that was formed by the damming of the White River in 1964. In addition to striped bass, walleye, and several species of catfish, it’s home to a small population of very large paddlefish, the AGFC said in its post. Fisheries biologists are currently considering implementing a snagging season for the cartilaginous fish, which are prized for the high quality of their roe and their superior flavor when smoked.
The standing Arkansas state record paddlefish was caught by James C. Johnson of North Oaks, Minnesota while trolling for striped bass in Beaver Lake back in September 2020. That fish came in just shy of six feet and weighed 118 pounds, 9 ounces. It’s girth was 44 inches in diameter, and it measured 49 inches from eyeball to tail.