A Colorado angler who landed perhaps the largest crappie ever caught in the state last November has been awarded a catch-and-release record.
Eric Allee was targeting bass from a kayak at McKay Lake on Nov. 12 when he spotted what he assumed were three large crappie on his forward-facing sonar unit.
Allee, a marketing director at Eagle Claw Tackle in Denver, hooked one of the fish with a 3.6-inch Berkley Flat Worm and soon realized that he might have a record crappie on his line.
On Friday, after being informed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife that his 18.25-inch black crappie had broken the previous catch-and-release length record, Allee told FTW Outdoors what went through his mind during the fight:
“It all happened so fast, but it felt like slow motion if that makes any sense. My heart was pounding, I was trying to remain tactful, and I was petrified at the same time.
“When she breached the surface, I would cringe every time her head would shake. Anyone who’s ever chased crappie knows they’re notorious for having paper-thin skin around the framework of their jaw; with a fish that heavy, if she was hooked in the thin-skinned parts of her mouth, it’s a recipe for disaster.
“After what seemed like forever, I felt instant relief when I scooped the net under her and lifted her out of the water.”
Eric Allee poses with 18.25-inch black crappie before releasing the fish. Photo: Eric Allee
Allee said the crappie weighed 3 pounds, 15 ounces on a scale he keeps on his kayak. He knew he could also shatter the Colorado weight record (3.48 pounds, set in 2017) if he killed the fish to have it weighed somewhere on a certified scale.
But Allee told FTW Outdoors that the fish was so large and magnificent-looking that he chose to toss it back after immortalizing the catch with a photograph.
“I didn’t want to kill the fish for the record,” he said. “It’s not that I’m against killing fish, I eat crappie often, but didn’t want to kill the fish just for the record.
“There’s more to it for me, too. I practice selective harvest and there’s something special about watching big fish go back.”
Colorado is not known for giant crappie, but any crappie topping three pounds is a giant.
For comparison, the all-tackle world-record black crappie in the weight category stands at 5 pounds, 7 ounces. That fish was caught at Richeison Pond in Tennessee in 2018.
The International Game Fish Assn. lists as the length (release) record a tie between five catches measuring 37 centimeters, or about 14.6 inches.
Allee said he did not consider applying to the IGFA for a possible length record and bemoaned the fact that he missed the 60-day limit for record submissions.