In the 45 years that the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has been keeping track of record-sized fish, nobody has ever seen one heavier than Darren Ouelette’s 44-pound, six-ounce common carp. Ouelette first sighted the massive fish swimming near some flooded trees in Lake Champlain on May 20. After the bowfisherman arrowed the carp, it took him 20 minutes to bring it in.
“When Darren finally got it in close, I tried to net it but I could only fit its head in the net,” said Taylor Patterson, who was bowfishing with Ouelette at the time. “I ended up just grabbing it in the mouth by hand and swinging it in. I was shocked at how heavy it was when I went to lift it.”
Common carp are known for their strength and size, and wildlife officials say it is not uncommon for the fish in Lake Champlain to grow well over 20 pounds. The species is a favorite of many anglers and is considered a valuable food source; in fact, the common carp is the most farmed fish in the world. As a result, the species is also very widespread.
“Common carp are actually smart, wary fish that spook easily,” Shawn Good, the biologist that manages the record program, said in a press release. “While it’s still uncommon in Vermont, there is a small group of dedicated anglers I know here who target carp with fly fishing gear. These anglers tell me that carp are often referred to as ‘freshwater bonefish’ because of the challenge and difficulty in taking one on a fly.”
Common carp consistently rank among the state’s largest fish. Previously, the largest fish ever caught in Vermont’s history belonged to a 42-pound, eight-ounce carp arrowed by Jeremy Ballantine last year, which was beat out by Ouelette’s recent catch. The next-largest fish on the state record books is a 38-pound, 3.5-ounce muskellunge.
“I knew it was a pretty big fish when I first saw it, but I didn’t think it was as big as it turned out to be,” Ouellette said.
The International Game Fish Association lists a 75-pound, 11-ounce fish from France as the all-tackle world record.
Image courtesy Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department