After more than a year without a new freshwater fish state record, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recently certified two new record breakers — a freshwater drum from Kerr Reservoir and a white crappie from a private lake in Wake County.
On March 20, Jonathan Wilkerson of Oxford landed a 23-pound, 8-ounce freshwater drum while fishing on Kerr Reservoir, in an area known as Beaver Pond Creek. He caught the new state record using a plastic fluke on 10-pound test.
Twelve days later, on April 1, Joey Boretti, of Holly Springs, was fishing a private lake in Wake County when he reeled in a 3-pound, 15-ounce white crappie, using a Storm WildEye Swim Shad lure on a spinning rod.
Both anglers were fishing in the early evening — a particularly good time to catch white crappie, which are most active at sunrise and sunset. Boretti, an experienced angler although he’s only 17, says he crappie fishes often and finds that they bite best around 6 or 7 p.m.
On the day he landed his state record, he was fishing for crappie along the shoreline with his parents Robert and Christine around 7 p.m., but having little success. So, he figured he would switch tactics — and lures — to see how well the bass were biting. On his second cast using the Swim Shad, he felt what he thought was a bass tug at his line, but while bringing it ashore and seeing the pan shape of the fish, knew it was a crappie. Because of the fish’s size, he thought it was a black crappie, which tend to get bigger than white crappie.
Boretti said he and his dad did some fish identification when they got home and decided that it was a white crappie. They got the slab crappie weighed on certified scales at Tractor Supply, Co., and Bill Collart, a Commission fisheries biologist, verified the catch as a white crappie.
The previous state record white crappie was a 3-pound, 2-ounce fish caught by Nashville angler Ray Patterson in April 2010 from the Tar River Reservoir. The reservoir has the abundant underwater structure that both white and black crappie prefer.
Kerr Reservoir, which sits in parts of Vance, Granville and Warren counties, is another North Carolina reservoir known for its crappie fishing, although it has good largemouth and striped bass fisheries, as well.
In fact, Wilkerson was targeting striped bass when he hooked the freshwater drum around 6:30 at night. The fish fought hard — hard enough that Wilkerson, after catching it, put it back in the water to revive it, only to watch it swim away. Luckily for Wilkerson, the fish didn’t get very far, floating belly up a short distance away. He scooped up the fish, weighed it and realized that he most likely had landed a new state record.
Wilkerson had the drum weighed on certified scales at Southern States in Oxford, and Jessica Baumann, a fisheries biologist with the Commission, verified the catch.
Wilkerson’s record-breaking drum exceeds by 12 ounces the current record holder, a 22-pound, 12-ounce drum caught by Brown Summit angler Daniel Stotts in January 2007. It is the fourth record drum to come from Kerr Lake in the last 10 years. Paul Riggs, Jr., of Vance County, was targeting drum when he landed two state records in December 2003.
To qualify for a N.C. Freshwater Fish State Record, anglers must have caught the fish by rod and reel or cane pole, have the fish weighed on a scale certified by the N.C. Department of Agriculture, witnessed by one observer, have the fish identified by a fisheries biologist from the Wildlife Commission, and submit an application with a full, side-view photo of the fish.
Visit the Commission’s website for a list of all freshwater fish state records in North Carolina or for more information on the State Record Fish Program. For more information on fishing in public, inland waters, visit the fishing page or call the Division of Inland Fisheries, 919 -707-0220.
Logo courtesy North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission