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South Carolina Record Muskie

Zavier Jefferies, 28, of Gaffney had an unexpected tussle in late February with a toothy monster not native to southern waters called muskellunge or just muskie, setting a new South Carolina state record at 22 pounds, 8 ounces, 42.25 inches total length, 20 inches girth and fork length 39 inches, bettering the previous record by more than 3 pounds.
Usually a northern species, the muskellunge is the largest growing member of the pike family and can reach 70 pounds and 5.5 feet in native waters around the Canadian border. Local relatives of muskie are the jackfish, or chain pickerel, which reaches 6.25 pounds, and redfin pickerel, which reaches 1.5 pounds.

Jefferies' fish replaces as South Carolina's all-tackle record for muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) a 19-pound, 2.4-ounce fish caught Oct. 21, 1995, from the Broad River by Lee Ramsey of Cowpens. Rick Littleton of Gaffney established the first state record for the species with a 17-pound, 4-ounce fish caught by Feb. 8, 1992, in the Broad River.

Jefferies and his buddy, Ricky D. Littlejohn, were fishing along the shoreline on the Broad River Feb. 22 near Gaffney when about 4 p.m. something decided to make a meal of the nightcrawler Jefferies was fishing along the bottom. The unknown fish went upstream, downstream and every direction, challenging the angler's 8-pound test Spiderwire line, Zebco 808 spincast reel and 44-inch rod. Finally working the fish to water's edge, Jefferies told his buddy to grab it by the tail and put it up on the bank. "When he reached for its head, it started snapping at him like an alligator and, took off again," Jeffries said.

The angler began cranking his reel again, losing line to drag, gaining line, determined to get a closer look. Finally wearing the huge fish down and working it close to hand, Jefferies just reached down and grabbed it by its gills to land it-all 42-plus inches of fish-putting in the back of the truck and rushing off to the local store where he buys bait. Some people thought it was a catfish, others a pike, some said it might be a muskie. "I didn't know what it was," Jefferies said. "All I know is that it looked like an alligator in the water."

Fisheries biologist Dan Rankin from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Clemson office identified Jefferies' catch as a muskie and confirmed it as the new state record for the species. DNR fisheries biologist Robert Stroud based in Rock Hill said the Broad River's muskies are surviving and growing larger as documented by the record fish caught in South Carolina and North Carolina. Muskie reproduction in Broad River hasn't been confirmed but their size potential of nearly 70 pounds certainly adds a whole other dimension for folks who fish on the Broad River. They are voracious feeders and can be caught on artificial lures as well as live bait.

A dedicated fisherman, Jefferies has several other big fish to his credit, including an 11-pound largemouth bass, two 10-pounders and two eight-pounders. A 14-pound largemouth he caught last year in a pond is in the process of mounted and joining his wall of fame. But he admits he'll have to make more room for his new favorite-the big muskie. "I didn't even know there were muskies in there, but I do now," Jefferies said. "Some guys I know go swimming in the river, but now they say they ain't gonna get back in that water now that they know what's swimming around out there."

How did muskies get into South Carolina waters? Pure strain muskellunge were stocked during the early 1970s into North Carolina's Lake Adger upstream on the Broad River some 100 miles north of Lockhart, SC. The first confirmed report in South Carolina was on March 1, 1984, when a 25-pound, 10-ounce muskie-with a 3-pound carp lodged it its jaws-was discovered in debris raked off a rack filter at Lockhart Dam. The muskie at Lockhart, and others, apparently entered South Carolina when water overran the spillway at Lake Adger crossing a series of five more dams during high water.

The muskellunge was native to North Carolina, restricted to a few mountain rivers that flow to the Ohio River Basin, but poor water quality had all but eliminated them by the early 1950s. Improvements in water quality by the early 1970s-thought due to the Federal Clean Water Act-prompted restoration efforts for muskie in North Carolina's French Broad, Nolichucky, Cane and New rivers. Tiger muskies, a hybrid of northern pike and muskellunge, have been stocked into in North Carolina's Kerr Scott Reservoir and lakes Rhodhiss, Hiwassee and Fontana. The North Carolina muskie record is a 41-pound, 7.84-ounce fish caught from Lake Adger in 2001 by Richard W. Dodd. The North Carolina tiger muskie record is a 33-pound, 8-ounce fish caught from James Lake in 1988 by Gary Dean Nanney.

The original American range for muskellunge was from north of the St. Lawrence River, through the Great Lakes, into western New York, the Ohio River Basin and the Tennessee River Basin in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The official world all-tackle record currently standing is a 69-pound, 11-ounce fish caught Oct. 20 1949, by Louis Spray from the Chippewa Flowage in Wisconsin according to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Heyward, Wis.

Anglers who think they have a new state or world record freshwater fish should take it as soon as possible to the nearest set of state certified scales - such as grocery store scales. Two people at least 18 years old should witness the weighing of a potential state record fish. The witnesses will need to sign a state affidavit form once the angler obtains it from the DNR, so be sure to get the witnesses' addresses and phone numbers.

If you think you've caught a state record fish, take immediate steps to preserve the fish until a state fisheries biologist can verify it. It can be placed on ice, but freezing is preferred. Lightly wet the fish and wrap it in a dark, plastic bag. If possible, take a picture of the fish while it is still fresh for additional documentation. To record the fish officially, contact Freshwater Fish Records Program, DNR Freshwater Fisheries Section, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202 or call (803) 734-3891 in Columbia.

The DNR Freshwater Fisheries Section in Columbia maintains all-tackle sportfishing records for freshwater fish and bowfishing records for a few species of nongame freshwater fish. No records are kept for individual line-test categories, for individual bodies of water, or for fish caught in nongame devices. Bowfishing records are kept for three species: common carp, bowfin and longnose gar.

Freshwater all-tackle sportfishing records are kept in South Carolina for 32 species: Striped Bass, White Bass, Hybrid Bass, White Perch, Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Redeye Bass, Bluegill (Bream), Shellcracker, Redbreast, Warmouth, Flier, Pumpkinseed, White Crappie, Black Crappie, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Sauger, Yellow Perch, Walleye, Chain Pickerel (Jackfish), Redfin Pike, Muskellunge (Muskie), Blue Catfish, Bullhead Catfish, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, White Catfish, Mudfish (Bowfin) and American Shad.

Fish eligible for consideration by the South Carolina Freshwater Sportfishing Records Program must be caught by sport means, using standard tackle or pole and line or, in the case of bowfishing, bow and arrow. Fish caught in nets and traps or on trotlines and set hooks will not be considered.

- Written by Mike Creel -

Check out the other South Carolina Saltwater Fishing Records


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