Havasu Has Super Sunfish
Potential world record redear tops out near 6 pounds
Arizona angler Hector Brito and his record redear sunfish.
When anglers talk about panfish, it’s most often the little guys where several are needed to fill the pan, not one that spills over the sides.
Arizona angler Hector Brito’s redear sunfish would fill most frying pans, but at 17 inches long and weighing 5 pounds, 12.8 ounces, the shellcracker on steroids isn’t destined for the dinner table, but rather the IGFA record book as the world record.
John Galbraith of Bass Tackle Master weighed the fish on certified scales in February, theorizing that fish in the lake are bulking up on invasive quagga mussels.
Redear sunfish 2 pounds and larger are regularly caught at this 19,300-acre impoundment on the Colorado River, formed by Parker Dam, astonishing since most anglers across the country are fortunate to hook sunfish over a pound.
The redear world record is currently shared by Bob Lawler for the 5-8 he took from Lake Havasu in 2011 and Amos Gay’s 5-7 caught in South Carolina in 1998.
“(Brito) said he thought it was a catfish,” Galbraith said. “I don’t know what the genetic potential is for redear. But this record fish was not even a spawning fish. There’s some out there that are in the mid-6 (pound range) easy.”
Bluegill and redear are caught in Lake Havusu around docks, vegetation, or artificial structure on mealworms, nightcrawlers or small crappie jigs. Brito caught his by the chalk cliffs with a dropshot rig that included a No. 8 Aberdeen gold hook and a nightcrawler.
Galbraith said the redears have gotten exceptionally large the past four years as the lake has been infested with quaggas, which are indigenous to the Ukraine. The freshwater mussels have rapidly colonized the Great Lakes, Colorado River impoundments including Lake Mead and some lakes in California.
Quaggas, which cause substantial ecological and environmental impacts, can introduce toxins up the food chain. Quaggas are eaten by crawdads and redear sunfish, which are being stocked in Colorado River drainage as a defense against quaggas.
Redear sunfish meander along the bottom of lakebeds seeking and cracking open snails and other shelled creatures with their thick, pharyngeal teeth and hard, movable plates in its throat that allow it to crunch exoskeletons.
Galbraith said he expects Brito’s record to fall, and possibly soon -- redear bite better in May and June, but they might not be suitable for any pan.
(The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds everyone fishing Lake Havasu or any AIS-affected lake that law requires them to clean, drain and dry boats.)