Fifteen-year-old Curtis Purcell has one heck of a fish story to tell after finding out that a Green Sunfish he came close to throwing back into a lake is now in the Wyoming record books.
Purcell and his father Jeff were checking their minnow traps at Lovell Lake on July 9, when Curtis saw a good-sized fish swim by and decided to toss his worm-baited hook into the water in front of it. Much to his surprise, the fish bit. He recognized the species right away to be a Green Sunfish, which he and his dad don’t usually keep. Although the fish definitely looked bigger than normal, he actually was ready to throw it back in the lake when he realized it had swallowed the hook. He decided that since the fish would most likely die anyway because of the hook, he would keep it.
“We were checking minnow traps so we could go for catfish,” explained Curtis. “We weren’t looking for Sunfish at all. It was one of those situations where you feel bad because it swallowed the hook. Otherwise, I would have thrown him back.”
He said he has actually caught bigger Sunfish in Lovell Lake in the past and has thrown them back. In fact, he usually throws back all the Sunfish, which are, in his experience, plentiful in the lake.
“Since we kept him, I got curious about how much he weighed and decided to put him on a scale,” said Curtis. “We took him down to the IGA (Red Apple) and also to the post office and had him weighed.”
Both scales agreed on an official weight of .93. Curtis said he looked up the record on the Wyoming Game and Fish website and found that the record was .82 pounds. That’s when he realized that his fish edged out the record. The previous record Sunfish was also caught in Lovell Lake, seven years earlier. It was officially recorded at 9.6 inches long.
“When we weighed him at our house he weighed a pound and a half but he shrunk a bit overnight and by the time we got him to the IGA he weighed .93, so that is what is recorded as the new record,” explained Curtis.
Curtis said the fish also shrunk in length from 10 inches to 9.6 inches, which is how it is officially recorded.
The father and son duo took the fish to the Wyoming Game and Fish office in Cody, where a fisheries biologist poked and prodded and measured the fish and recorded its official leng
th at 9.6 inches and its girth at 8.8 inches, declaring it the official record catch for the species.
Curtis is an avid fisherman. He fishes at least three times a week in the summer and likes to fish year round, including ice fishing. He said he doesn’t particularly like the taste of fish and never eats them but he enjoys bringing them home for his family to enjoy. He also enjoys the time with Dad, who is his main fishing partner.
He loves the outdoors and also likes to hunt for goose, duck and deer. He even won the Wyoming Game and Fish “Big Buck Contest” a few years back. He also enjoys trapping and made it the primary focus of an FFA project in school.
He said that Sunfish are one of his favorite fish to catch because they give a good fight and there are plenty of them. He also likes to catch “Brookies.” His favorite place to fish is the causeway because of the variety of fish species he is able to catch there.
Curtis said the fish was too mutilated to mount after all of the handling it endured, so he won’t be able to have it mounted. Instead, he is having a reproduction made that he can hang on the wall along with a certificate acknowledging his record.
As for the fate of the original fish, Mom and Dad both said it was “tasty.”
By Patti Carpenter