That’s what Grovetown angler Tom Lewis did while jigging tiny, Carolina-rigged minnows in the Savannah River last Wednesday.
“I thought it was a bass at first,” he said. “But when I got it close to the boat, I saw the colors – and knew it was a yellow perch.”
It wasn’t just any yellow perch, though. It was the fattest one Lewis had ever seen – and was certified the next day as Georgia’s new state record.
After landing the egg-laden fish, estimated at seven years old, Lewis and a friend kept fishing. Eventually, the fish basket dangling from the stern was packed with a dozen or more fish, in addition to the big one.
When it was time to call it a day, Lewis emptied the afternoon’s catch into a trash bag in his truck. Back at home, the “keepers” were filleted and the big one, still alive, was placed into his dog’s watering trough in the garage.
Thursday morning, Lewis loaded his fish into a cooler and drove to the Wildlife Resources Division office in Thomson, where fisheries biologist Ed Bettross determined the still-breathing fish weighed 2 pounds, 9 ounces, besting the previous Georgia record by more than an ounce.
That earlier record was held by two anglers, whose fish tied at 2 pounds, 8 ounces. One fish was landed in Lake Burton in 1980, with the tying fish taken in 2008 from the Savannah River, not far from where Lewis fishes below Thurmond Dam.
Bettross said it is possible the fish might have weighed even more when it was first caught.
“It was good that the fish was kept alive though,” he said. “That helps it maintain its original weight.”
To qualify for a record, a fish must be weighed on certified scales, and its species must be validated by a state biologist.
The complete details on how to submit a potential record fish are on the DNR Web site.
Lewis, meanwhile, plans to have his giant perch mounted. “I won’t catch one like this again,” he said.
After having the fish certified as a new record and posing for a few photos, Lewis did what he likes to do every afternoon: He trailered his boat to the river and went perch fishing.