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Dale Jernigan of Goodlettsville recently landed what may be the biggest crappie ever taken on Kentucky Lake. About ten days ago he was fishing in Eagle Creek and casting curly tail grubs toward shallow shorelines when history may have been made.

From a pontoon Jernigan and some friends were beating the banks over some of his dad Howard Jerniganís old beds when the slab fell prey to his 1/16-ounce chartreuse grub.

ďI saw it and yelled ďget the netĒ but I didnít have any idea it was that big,Ē said a still excited Jernigan via telephone more than a week after the catch. ďWe kept on fishing for about an hour as we had some pretty good ones and wanted to keep fishing while they were biting.Ē

ďPretty soon we boated to shore and I headed over to Kirkís and Lakeview Grocery to have it weighed and enter their big fish contest,Ē continued Jernigan, who has a house trailer in the Pine Point area and visits here often.

The 51-year old crappie fisherman got quite a surprise when the certified scales at Lakeview settled in at 3.98 pounds! He got an even bigger surprise when the certified scaled at Kirkís Trading Post locked in at 4.20 pounds.

While itís somewhat of a mystery as to two certified scales showing two different weights there is a possibility as to moisture or water entering the equation. Either way itís a dandy.

According to fisheries biologist the photo revealed it to be a female black crappie. Jernigan said it measured 18 ĺ -inches long.

Needless to say, Jerniganís crappie is the talk of the town around the Kentucky Lake fishing community as the news is spreading about the hefty catch.

In my 37-years as a professional guide it is the biggest crappie I have heard of. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the fish up close and personal. However, pal Jim Napier, boating safety officer for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency did and told me about it.

I was somewhat skeptical upon first hearing the news. After all, Iíve fished Kentucky Lake for about 50-years and talked to a lot of older anglers---ranging from guides to commercial fishermen---and no one seemed to recall any official weight for a crappie as big as Jerniganís catch.

Still somewhat reluctant to embrace the fishing story I contacted fisheries biologists in Tennessee and Kentucky. My question to them inquired about any bigger crappie taken by them during netting, electrofishing samples, or awareness from any such slab taken by a sport fisherman ever.

No one seems to know of a crappie topping Jerniganís trophy catch. As it stands now itís the unofficial Kentucky Lake record as no lake records are actually documented by state fish and wildlife agencies. There are state records but not recordings of lake records.

Tennesseeís state record crappie stands at 5 pounds, 1 ounce taken from a private lake in Dickson County way back in 1968. That fish is only two ounces off the official world record taken by Fred Bright at Lake Enid Mississippi in 1957.

During a stubborn spring when crappie fishing has been off for the majority of anglers it seems Jernigan may have had his best day ever on Kentucky Lake.

He was at the right place at the right time with the right lure. I tip my hat to him as he managed to do what I and about a million other anglers have not done; he landed perhaps the biggest crappie ever reported since TVA closed the gates at Kentucky Dam back in the mid 1940ís.

Thatís saying something.

Even though I didnít get to see the fish first hand, Jernigan promised to unite me with the specimen once he gets it back from the taxidermist.

Iíll admire it and likely pet it a time or two in awe, wondering just how many times my hooks may have passed by the lovely lady. She will soon adorn the wall of another lucky angler.

Surely you didnít think he ate such a fish did you?

Donít laugh as stranger things have happened here in the Deep South!


Steve McCadams is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area. He has also contributed many outdoor oriented articles to various national publications.



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