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updated: 2/26/2014 10:17 PM

Havasu's heating up for record redears

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  • Hector Brito displays the 5.78-pound redear sunfish he caught in Lake Havasu. It's been submitted for world record consideration.

      Hector Brito displays the 5.78-pound redear sunfish he caught in Lake Havasu. It's been submitted for world record consideration.
    Submitted photo

 
 

My recent conversation with Frank Byrzicki included our never-ending passion to find jumbo smallmouth and huge bluegills.

I have written a number of columns as to how I've stumbled upon ponds containing bluegills weighing over a pound.

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Most of these "gold mines" are situated in the metro area, but there are a couple that lie situated alongside several major highways.

Frank and I have ultralight setups that have been put together specifically for big 'gills, and when we hook the hump-nosed bulls the catching turns in to what I've described as a rodeo event.

Some of the sub-species I've caught, like redear sunfish, rarely come up to the sizes of the regular and hybrid bluegills. I've managed to coax the local fish to the hook buy using a Mini-Mite jig tipped with a small piece of worm or a juicy spike (maggot).

But the real reason I called Frank was to alert him to some news I received from a friend in Arizona.

A week ago Ron Lindner informed me he was traveling to Lake Havasu in Arizona to meet with brother Al. These super-sharp anglers mapped out a strategy to locate and catch jumbo redear sunfish from Lake Havasu. I implored Ron to call me when they located the big fish. The call never came.

But it was dramatic news that subsequently came from another friend who lives in Phoenix.

His rapid-fire sentences and shortness of breath suggested to me I'd better allow him to get his story out.

He told me a potential world record redear sunfish, 5.78 pounds, had just been caught and weighed on a certified scale. The lucky angler is Hector Brito, who first thought he had a big catfish on the end of his line.

Wildlife officials say Lake Havasu is home to a population of unusually large sunfish because of the existence of invasive quagga mussels. Redear sunfish, also known as shellcrackers for their habits of snacking on shellfish, are a favorite of many anglers because of their rich flavor. While they usually dine on snails, biologists have found that the fish is a useful ally against quagga mussels, which damage local ecosystems. Redear sunfish meander along the bottoms of lakes searching for these tasty morsels, which the fish then crack open with powerful jaws and swallow in chunks. The mussel is forced through its hardened throat, where an additional set of teeth destroy the shells.

Hector was using a drop-shot rig, a small hook, and a piece of worm.

Arizona Game and Fish Department spokesman John Galbraith was the guy who weighed the fish on a certified scale.

"I don't know what the genetic potential is for redear," he said. "But this record fish was not even a spawning fish. There's some out there (in Lake Havasu) that are in the mid 6 range, easy."

The previous record was a 5.55-pound fish caught by Bob Lawler in 2011. While certainly a state record, Brito must now wait for his fish to be confirmed as the world's largest by the International Game Fish Association.

And now I understand why the brothers Lindner were eager to catch some of the big fish and capture the action on digital video for their television show.

• Contact Mike Jackson at angler88@comcast.net, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and podcast at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.

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