There’s a new paddlefishing king of Tennessee. His name is Henry Dyer, and the lunker he hauled out of Cherokee Lake obliterated the state’s existing paddlefish record.
Dyer’s behemoth measured 7 feet, 5 inches long and tipped the scale at 149 pounds — 29 pounds heavier than the previous biggest paddlefish ever landed in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) posted the April 13 catch on its Instagram account. “BIG FISH ALERT!” it announced. Officials from the agency confirmed the record, The Tennesseean reported.
Dyer recalled the story of the fight to land the fish to WTVC news. What started by surprise lapsed into exhausting combat.
“When I snagged that thing, I thought I’d hung on a stump, and then, all of a sudden, it just took off,” he said. “I was in the back of a boat, and it was everything I could do to hold on to it.”
Dyer told the outlet it took “more than half an hour” and two people to haul the huge fish onto the boat.
According to Dyer, he’s a particularly diminutive angler.
“I’m a little feller, and that fish weighed more than me,” he told WTVC.
Then again, it doesn’t take a whole lot to be smaller than the record-breaking paddlefish. Bart Carter, a fisheries biologist for TWRA involved in the record verification, said it could be 30 years old. Tennessee paddlefish average about 36 inches long, according to a government-published angler’s guide.
It’s the first record breakage in a long time among Tennessee paddlefish anglers — the previous 120-pound record holder was hauled up in 1982. And while Dyer’s specimen was impressive beyond all reproach, it still didn’t break the world record. That accolade belongs to Grant Rader, who reeled in a humongous 164-pounder in Oklahoma in 2021.
Dyer nicknamed his fish “Old Big Boy,” according to WSAZ news, and donated it to TWRA for research purposes.