BRYAN COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – A new record for the biggest silver carp caught in Oklahoma is set, by a man who already has several records in Texas. However, his main goal isn’t to tip the scales, but to fight back against invasive species that harm native Oklahoma fish.
“It was an epic night,” said Stephen Banaszak, a bow fisherman from Denison, Texas.
Banaszak has several passions including bow fishing for his Youtube channel after years of mixed martial arts fighting. His latest challenge has been taking out invasive fish from Oklahoma and Texas waters, like the silver and bighead carp.
These invasive fish can be huge and powerful.
Elaine Gainer, the Aquatic Nuisance Species Program Coordinator with the State Wildlife Department, said both can be found in the Red River, while Bighead Carp can be found in the Grand Lake of the Cherokees. The invasive species are filter-feeders, that starve native Oklahoma fish by eating their plankton.
“They can have a lot of they produce a lot of eggs. They’re just very successful fish,” said Gainer.
“If they get one successful spawn. That’s it. Now, you got millions of them swimming around in and they outcompete our native fish,” said Banaszak.
Banaszak said after hours of mapping and working with the State Wildlife Department, he hunted for silver carp in the Red River near Lake Texoma.
“He came up in front of me with the light, and he jumped across the front of the boat because they when they get scared, they jump out of the water. So, he jumped and I chased him down with the boat. I was probably going like, like ten, 15 miles an hour,” said Banaszak. “I caught up to him and I shot him when he was darting by. And then it probably took me about 5 minutes to get him in.”
The Oklahoma record setter weighed in at just over 31 pounds.
The Wildlife Department said it hopes this will encourage other anglers to help get these invasive species out of our waters. Officials stress, if you do go out looking for the invasive species, do not move your bait.
“Using live bait from systems that do have invasive carp, there’s very good odds you could accidentally introduce that into an un-invaded system,” said Gainer.
In the meantime, Banaszak said he welcomes the competition. He said it’s uncharted territory, which is why he loves the challenge.
“It would be really fun for me if somebody is able to beat my record, because it gives me another little bit of motivation to go out and and try to beat them,” said Banaszak.
So far, Banaszak has donated 95 bighead carp to researchers. He’s looking to up those numbers.