“Someone in fisheries please come to the front office to weigh a fish.”
This kind of announcement over the PA system at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters isn’t unusual. I didn’t pay much attention until one of our wildlife technicians appeared at my door saying that I might want to see a new record-breaking fish in the fisheries office. I grabbed my camera and hurried upstairs. Lying on the floor below our scale was a huge carp. I couldn’t believe the size of this fish!
The angler, Shane Felch of Shrewsbury, and his friend Devon DuBois were grinning from ear to ear. I snapped a couple of images in the office as more biologists clattered down the hall to see the big fish. This carp, taken from Lake Quinsigamond in Shrewsbury, weighed a staggering 46 pounds, 5 ounces, breaking the 1993 state carp record of 44 pounds 2 ounces set by Roger Pyzocha with a fish he caught on the Connecticut River.
Shane took his fish with a cross bow (which requires a special permit for hunting and fishing in Massachusetts). Carp are one of the few freshwater fish in Massachusetts which can be taken by either using a hook, line or bow and arrow. A line on the crossbow bolt is connected to a reel, which is attached to the bow. When the bolt is released, the angler can then use the bow to reel in the fish. This catch was a team effort between Shane and his buddy Devon, who operated the boat.
Devon laughed. “This fish dragged us all over the place – it’s only a little 14-foot john boat,” he said.
Shane and Devon have only tried “bowfishing” for carp in the past year: reading articles, ordering equipment, and going out on late night fishing expeditions. Their strategy is to slowly travel the shallows of the lake, with lights blazing to spot the fish, aim and shoot into the water. I teased them about “jack lighting carp” – which is a perfectly legal and traditional fishing technique.
There are three varieties of the Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio, found in Massachusetts: the “standard” or “typical” variety which is fully scaled like most conventional fish; the “mirror carp” which displays various numbers of large, scattered scales interspersed with unscaled skin; and the “leather carp” which has bare, leathery skin and is almost entirely lacking in scales. The leather is believed to be the most uncommon variety in the Commonwealth, but many are taken by carp anglers every year. The new state record has large, scattered scales and is therefore a mirror carp, which anglers report is the most common variety caught from Lake Quinsigamond.
Paperwork for entering the fish in the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program was quickly completed and images of the fish and the scale measurement taken. It was a good thing Shane brought the fish to Westborough; any angler who believes they have broken a state record must present their fish in its entirety (whole) to qualified fisheries personnel at MassWildlife Field Headquarters in Westborough or at any of the five MassWildlife District offices for certification.
Shane says he’s going to be back at our office with another fish.
“This isn’t the biggest fish. I’ve seen another one that looks twice as big as this one,” he said. “I promise you, I’ll be back.”