The Arizona Game and Fish Department announced on Thursday that the state may soon be home to the world’s largest angler-caught redear sunfish.
Hector Brito pulled his massive 5.78-pound catch from Lake Havasu on Sunday with a dropshot rig, No. 8 Aberdeen gold hook, and a nightcrawler.
“(Brito) said he thought it was a catfish,” said John Galbraith, who weighed the fish on a certified scale. “I don’t know what the genetic potential is for redear. But this record fish was not even a spawning fish. There’s some out there that are in the mid-six (pound range) easy.”
The previous record was a 5.55-pound fish caught by Bob Lawler in 2011. While certainly a state record, Brito must now wait for his fish to be confirmed as the world’s largest by the International Game Fish Association.
Wildlife officials say Lake Havasu is home to a population of unusually large sunfish because of the existence of invasive quagga mussels.
Redear sunfish, also known as shellcrackers for their habits of snacking on shellfish, are a favorite of many anglers because of their rich flavor. While they usually dine on snails, biologists have found that the fish is a useful ally against quagga mussels, which damage local ecosystems with their presence.
Redear sunfish meander along the bottoms of lakes searching for these tasty morsels, which the fish then crack open with powerful teeth and swallow in chunks. The mussel is forced through its hardened throat, where an additional set of teeth destroy the shells.
Because of their popularity with anglers and providing little direct competition for other fish, shellcrackers have been stocked in many lakes across the nation.
Image courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department