For fishermen, catching a state record is like winning the lottery, or in this case, itâ€™s the proverbial pot of gold at the end of their line, instead of at the end of a rainbow. Considering how many hundreds of thousands of people fish each year, there is usually only a handful of new records established. That makes the odds real long-shots, unless youâ€™re in the right place at the right time.
â€œItâ€™s unreal, just an unbelievable feeling,â€ said Jim Horton, of Sulphur Springs, Texas. â€œWe had been fishing for a couple of hours. They werenâ€™t biting real well but we had caught some smaller rainbows.â€ Horton regularly fishes the lower Mountain Fork River with his son, Heath, and they were fishing the Zone II area that Friday evening. The lower Mountain Fork trout area contains three regulation zones. Zone II, which runs from the old park dam to the reregulation dam, features special fishing regulations designed to create a trophy fishery. In this stretch of the river, anglers must use barbless artificial lures only and the daily limit is one brown and one rainbow trout, both 20 inches or longer.
They had just started generating so there was a little current, added Horton. He used a Pinnacle rod, 1300C Diawa Reel and 6-pound Berkley fireline to cast the Renegade golden spoon to the current. â€œThe fish hit and about jerked the rod out of my hand,â€ said Horton. â€œIt came straight at me for 20 or 30 feet. I was reeling like crazy because I had a barbless hook on, and I knew it was a good fish. â€œI knew if it got any slack I was going to lose it. I put some pressure on the fish and it jumped. When I saw it, my heart jumped up in my throat. We were running late and I had forgot to bring a net, so I yelled at Heath to give me some help.â€ Horton has caught several good fish while fishing the trout stream in McCurtain County. But, he had never seen a fish of this size and he didnâ€™t want to lose it.
â€œI didnâ€™t know at the time that the fish was a state record, but I knew it was a good fish,â€ Horton said of the trout, which was 26 1/4 inches long and had a girth of 17 1/2 inches. â€œIt took several minutes to get it to the bank. Heath finally tailed it and then got a hand under its head and slid the fish up on the bank.â€ The pair realized the fish might be a potential state record once they had it on the bank. â€œWe werenâ€™t really for sure what the record was, but we knew this was a good fish, Horton said. â€œI put two hooks of the stringer through him because we thought he might be a state record. Heath didnâ€™t want me to put him back in the water at all, so he fished for a few more minutes and we headed out.â€ Using the headlights of the truck the pair weighed the fish on a digital scale they had with them. The scale showed the fish was a possible record, so they went to the state park office to find out where they could have the fish officially weighed.
Mike Virgin, district three law enforcement chief for the Department witnessed the fish being weighed on certified scales at the K&E Texaco in Hochatown. Fisheries Chief, Kim Erickson certified the record the following Monday. Erickson said the fish was probably an older female, and was obviously in excellent health.
The previous record also caught on the lower Mountain Fork, weighed 7-pounds, 12 ounces, and was caught Jan. 27, 1996. Anyone who thinks they may have caught a record should contact a Wildlife Department employee immediately. A fisheries biologist ultimately certifies record catches, but any Department employee can witness the weigh-in.
â€œI told Heath that it probably wouldnâ€™t sink in until a biologist called and said that it was really the record,â€ Horton said. â€œItâ€™s just so unreal."