Illinois is a great place for anglers. The state has several large bodies of water in which people can fish, like Carlyle Lake and Lake Michigan. Rivers define large portions of the state’s eastern, western, and southern borders in the state. One of the fish that anglers try to catch is the bighead carp, a filter-feeder that can get very large. Discover the largest bighead carp ever caught in Illinois and see why this creature was such a big deal!
Description of the Bighead Carp
Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) is a fish species that originated in eastern Asia. Sometimes, people refer to this species as the Asian carp. However, other species share the same moniker. The species was brought to North America to help keep retention ponds at wastewater facilities clean. However, they escaped containment and ended up in the Ohio and Mississippi River systems. Today, they live in many states, including Illinois.
The average bighead carp is about 2 feet long, but they can grow far larger, upwards of about 5 feet. The fish varies a great deal in weight, but members of the species can reach weights of over 50 pounds.
The species has a head without scales, but its body is scaled. The fish have very large heads. Also, the species has eyes situated forward and low on their head. Their lower jaws protrude, and their mouths are big and toothless.
The species usually has a dark gray body as adults, especially on the dorsal side. The color fades toward the bighead carp’s underside, but splotches of dark color often appear on the fish’s sides.
Anglers try to catch these fish because they can get very large, and they put up a strong fight when they’re on the line. They’re also a somewhat popular species for bow fishers, even though they are more difficult to hunt than other carp.
Habitat and Diet
These fish are common in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. They prefer places that have a slow flow, and they tend to stay in the higher part of the water column. The bighead carp species tend to eat zooplankton. They’re filter feeders that feast throughout the day, and they’re capable of eating more than their weight in a day.
What Was the Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught in Illinois?
The largest bighead carp ever caught in Illinois was 43 pounds 3 ounces. The 43-pound-3 ounce fish was the largest creature ever caught using a rod and reel in the state. A man named Larry Hileman captured this fish in Lyerla Lake on May 25, 1995. Aside from knowing about the fish’s weight, very little information on this catch is available.
The state record lacks the size of the fish and the bait used to catch this massive creature.
Where Is Lyerla Lake on a Map?
Lyerla Lake is in Union County, Illinois. This county is located in southwestern Illinois. The largest bighead carp was captured in this lake in 1995. An interesting thing about this lake is that it is less than three miles east of the Mississippi River. This lake is due east of Reynoldsville, a small community amidst a vast area of farmlands.
What Other Fish Do People Seek in Lyerla Lake?
Lyerla Lake yielded the largest bighead carp ever caught in Illinois. However, anglers come to this lake seeking many different kinds of fish. Some of the other fish they try to catch in this area are:
- White crappie
- Black crappie
- Common carp
The bighead carp is not the most common fish in this lake. So, when the fish that broke the state record came from this lake, it was probably a very big surprise. The bighead carp is far more common in the nearby Mississippi River.
Was the Largest Bighead Carp Ever Caught in Illinois a World Record?
No, the largest bighead carp in Illinois was not a world record. The largest member of this species ever caught overall weighed 125 pounds 5 ounces. However, this massive creature was hauled in using bowfishing methods and not on a rod and reel.
According to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), the largest one ever caught on a rod and reel was 90 pounds, and it was captured on June 2, 2005. The angler was Jeffrey J. Rolex, and he caught this behemoth at Guntersville Lake, Tennessee. Yet, other anglers have captured heavier members of the species. However, they didn’t have bait on their hooks. The IGFA does not recognize their records.
Also, the largest bighead carp ever caught in Illinois was not the heaviest one ever seen in the state. In June 2023, a commercial fisherman accidentally caught a massive 109-pound bighead carp in a net. This greatly exceeds the record for the bighead carp caught with a rod and reel. All in all, the largest bighead carp in Illinois was a very big specimen, but not the biggest.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Katoosha/Shutterstock.com
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