Angler's catch tips scales at 5-plus pounds
John Horstman had not been pumping iron before he hooked a state-record black crappie, but he got a little workout landing the fish, which broke Missouri's state pole-and-line record and could be an international record, too.
Horstman and his son Doug were on a sort of annual trip April 21. Doug is a certified public accountant, and after the rush of tax season passes each year he and his dad take a few fishing trips. They had permission to fish a private lake in their home area of rural Callaway County and started fishing around 9 a.m. It was their first time there.
They were fishing with live minnows, hooking the bait fish through the lips, from the bottom up. By 11 a.m. they had caught several nice crappie, including a 15-incher and a slightly shorter one that Doug boated. Then John hooked a monster.
"We could tell it was big," said John, "but we couldn't tell what it was until it got up close to the boat. When we saw it we knew it was a good crappie."
The fish fought hard, making several strong runs that taxed John's spincast reel. He was pretty sure his 14-pound-test line would hold, but he worried that the fish might straighten out his No. 4 wire hook.
"Then it got tangled around the anchor rope, of course," he said.
After a few tense moments, Doug grabbed the fish by the lip and John grabbed the anchor, and they lifted both into the boat. They put the 19-inch black crappie in the boat's live well and then went back to fishing, but the morning's action was over, so they went home. When they got there, they put John's big crappie on a scale.
"It weighed a little over 5 pounds on that scale, so we got kind of excited," he said. "Until then we thought it probably weighed around 4 pounds."
Doug called the Missouri Department of Conservation and learned that the state record for a black crappie was 4.5 pounds. The next stop was the Conservation Department Headquarters in Jefferson City. With the fisheries program's supervisor in tow, they went to the produce department at the Gerbes Food Store on Truman Boulevard, where the scale showed that Horstman's fish weighed 5.02 pounds.
The Conservation Department has certified the fish as a new state record. The previous record dates to 1967, when Ray Babcock of Independence caught a 4-pound, 8-ounce black crappie from a farm pond in Clay County. The state record for the closely related white crappie belongs to Samuel H. Barbee of Poplar Bluff, who caught a 4-pound, 9-ounce fish of that species from a County farm pond in 2000.
Horstman's fish is larger than the current all-tackle record listed by the International Game Fish Association in Dania Beach, Fla. Two fish are tied for their record. Both those fish weighed over 4.5 pounds.
Horstman's fish is destined for fame regardless of whether it becomes an IGFA all-tackle record. He donated his lunker -- still swimming, to Bass Pro Shops. It will be kept in quarantine and eventually go on display in an aquarium at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Springfield.
Horstman, 69, does a lot of fishing. Mostly he fishes in small Missouri River tributaries and blue holes gouged out by the Great Flood of 1993. He said he has not been back to the record-producing lake to fish since his big catch.
For more information about Missouri's state-record fish program, visit http:// www.mdc.mo.gov/fish/ and click on fishing.
Black and white crappie go by a long list of common names, including white perch, white bream, papermouth (because of their thin, fragile mouths), calico bass (because the spotted flanks of black crappie look like calico fabric), slab (because they reach large size) and sac-a-lait (French for "bag of milk").