Lee Haile III was fishing with his son and a friend near Salibsury, Maryland recently when he scored a personal best for chain pickerel. As it turns out, the eight-pound fish also proved to be a state record. Officials from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed Haile’s catch to be a record last week.

“I’ve been fishing for pickerel for over 38 years, and I just knew this one was exceptional,” he told the DNR.

Chain pickerel, also known as gunfish or federation pike, are energetic fighters and do not give up easily. By Haile’s account, his record fish was no exception. The fish made several 30-foot dashes once hooked, circled the boat twice, dodged the net, and went under the boat before Haile was able to bring it on board. As soon as he saw the size of the fish, all interest for further fishing that day evaporated.

“When I saw the fish in the boat, I said that we needed to go in because this could be a record fish,” Haile recalled.

Sure enough, the fish was brought to a certified scale and weighed in at a neat eight pounds, surpassing the state’s previous record of a seven-pound, four-ounce pickerel set back in 1976. For comparison, the world record for chain pickerel stands at nine pounds and four ounces. That record, set in Georgia, has stood now for more than a half-century.

While Haile’s fish may not take the world record, the catch was of special significance for the angler. It was not by mere chance that he hooked this particular fish, and not the first time they have met.

“I caught and released that fish three years ago, hoping it’d become a giant,” Haile told The Capital Gazette.

Haile used a light spinning tackle with eight-pound braided running line, a 20-pound monofilament leader, and a minnow/jig combo lure to land the fish.

Image courtesy Maryland DNR

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