Todd Goins landed a 31-inch-long hybrid striped bass while fishing on Otter Lake near Girard, Ill., on May 29 — but it wasn’t until later that he realized how big a catch it really was.
Todd Goins landed a 31-inch-long hybrid striped bass while largemouth bass fishing on Otter Lake near Girard, Ill., on May 29 — but it wasn’t until later that he realized how big a catch it really was.
“I need some help and advice,” Goins wrote in an email to PrairieStateOutdoors.com, a GateHouse Media website covering Illinois outdoors topics. “I caught this fish today, and I’m sure it is a hybrid striper since it has broken stripes and a deep body.
“Unfortunately, I did not have a scale in boat,” he wrote. “I did not want to kill the fish and there was no place to go nearby (where the fish could be taken to be weighed before it died).”
So, after taking a measurement, the fish was released alive.
“I didn’t realize how big it was until I got home and started looking up record hybrids,” says Goins, who lives in Germantown Hills, Ill.
The world record hybrid striped bass, caught in Arkansas in 1997, weighed 27 pounds, 5 ounces and was estimated to be 32 to 35 inches long.
The Illinois record, set in 1993, weighed just a shade over 20 pounds.
When Goins read that, he thought he might have just released a state record fish.
He wanted some help estimating the weight of the fish he released.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Dan Stephenson says the fish likely was shy of a state record.
“Based on a length to weight regression line I ran, an average weight for a 31-inch hybrid striper would be 17.63 pounds,” he says. “This fish could be heavier than average for its length, but to get it to a state record of over 20 pounds, it would have to be 30 percent above average, which is not likely.
“Still, it’s a great hybrid striper.”
“Great fish,” says Jeff Pontnack, the DNR fisheries biologist for Otter Lake. “We have all three species in Otter — white, pure and hybrid with more hybrids than the other two.
“The hybrids at Otter are usually very thick. I would have loved to have seen that monster.”
The largest hybrid striper seen in annual lake surveys at Otter Lake weighed about 16 pounds, Pontnack says.
Goins says his fishing partner still thinks the fish was more than 20 pounds.
“I’m kicking myself for not having my digital scale,” he says. “I was pre-fishing for a bass tournament and had everything cleared out of my boat.”
At first, Goins and his partner didn’t know for sure what was on the line.
“It was a long time before we could see it,” he says. “My partner and I guessed at first it was musky, then big catfish, then maybe huge drum, then perhaps a bull shark, then maybe a submarine and perhaps the Loch Ness Monster.”
Even so, the fish was even more impressive in person.
“My partner and I were shocked at how thick this fish was,” Goins says. “It was exhausted from the long fight, and I didn’t want to handle it too much.”
Stephenson says hybrid stripers are great sport fish but underappreciated.
“Hybrid stripers may be the best-kept secret in Illinois,” he says. “They do well in every lake we stock them in, but aren’t targeted as much as we would like.
“Too many of them are dying of old age, and not enough are being caught. And they are great to eat. They have a dark band of meat running down the center of the filet, but they are so big that even if you cut that out, you still have a lot of very good meat.”
Striped bass are in the same family as the red snapper and grouper, Stephenson says, and they make excellent table fare.