Kiefer angler snags 143-pound paddlefish, breaking state record

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Kiefer angler Jeremiah Mefford, with help from his son, Brody, holds the state-record paddlefish he snagged at Keystone Lake on May 23, 2020. At 143 pounds, the fish busted the previous record by 10.5 pounds. (Photo by Jason Schooley/ODWC)

TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – A man can now call himself a state record holder after snagging a paddlefish that weighed more than 140 pounds last week!

On May 23, Jeremiah Mefford, of Kiefer, was enjoying some family time at Keystone Lake when as they were leaving, he decided to cast one more time.

Little did he know, he’d be breaking a state record.

“This fish had my arms worn out, and I was not quite sure if it was from my lack of working out, or was it a giant?” he said. “After fighting the fish for several minutes, it surfaced about 40 feet from the boat, and we got our first glimpse along with four other boats watching the battle play out.”

Once Mefford had the paddlefish at the boat, he quickly took a weight and saw 146 pounds.

“I then got on the phone with wildlife management, and they immediately headed our way,” Mefford said. “The Game Wardens did an outstanding job with the fish from the handling and gathering information standpoint.”

Senior Fisheries Biologist Jason Schooley was one of two Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation employees able to rush out to Keystone Lake.

He said they “immediately headed to the lake with the scale, cradle, and additional equipment. We had the fish weighed within 68 minutes of receiving the call, and I felt that was about a best-case-scenario response time.”

Mefford’s catch was 76 inches in total length and 44.5 inches in girth. The fish weighed a whopping 143 pounds.

Even though Mefford was prepared to harvest the huge fish, he indicated that he would choose to release it if possible.

Schooley determined a successful release would be possible, as the angler had shown great concern about the well-being of the paddlefish from the moment he snagged it, and the fish had been treated with great respect. Also, the water temperature was still somewhat cool, which helps with survival.

“Paddlefish are ram ventilators, meaning that they need to swim constantly to get oxygen through their gills. Restraining a paddlefish can often result in mortality, especially in warm water temps,” Schooley said.

As it would be illegal for Mefford to release the fish himself, also known as culling, he agreed to relinquish possession of the live fish to the wildlife department so it could be released.

Schooley said the fish was resuscitated for about 10 minutes on the boat ramp and then moved farther offshore.

“When the fish showed signs of vigor, we let loose, watched it sink, and then monitored the fish’s movements using Livescope (sonar),” said Schooley. “The fish plainly swam into deeper water, remained upright, and we followed its directed swimming for a few minutes until we were convinced that the fish was likely to survive the experience.”

 The previous state record weighed 132 pounds, 8 ounces, and was snagged about two years ago by Larry Dale Morphew out of the Arkansas River.

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