Sasser: Recapturing a record; 12-year-old girl again holds Lake Ray Hubbard mark after 30.22 catch

By , Staff Writer

On Christmas Eve, 12-year-old McKenzie Peterson was fishing at Lake Ray Hubbard with her dad, Lief Peterson, when she caught a blue catfish weighing 30.22 pounds. The fish was recently certified as a junior division lake record.

It was not the young angler’s first heavyweight title. When she was eight, she held the Ray Hubbard blue cat junior record for about six months with a 25.85 pounder. Cody Miles beat McKenzie’s mark with a 26.90 pounder in March 2011.

She’s been trying ever since to recapture the record, said her dad. McKenzie is a seventh grader at Cain Middle School in Heath. She earned a bonus when she weighed the Christmas Eve fish at Bass Pro Shops, Garland, which is on Lake Ray Hubbard and maintains certified scales required for weighing most record fish.

The Petersons release 95 percent of the fish they catch and 100 percent of those over 10 pounds. She planned to release the latest record but the store manager, Ryan Niemeyer, asked if McKenzie would donate her fish for display in the store’s aquarium.

She agreed and Bass Pro Shops is having a replica mount made for the young angler. Lief Peterson said he and his daughter have enjoyed excellent fishing at Ray Hubbard in the past few months. Like all Dallas-area lakes, Ray Hubbard filled with the 2015 rains.

In five consecutive winter fishing trips, the Petersons caught blue cats in the 20-pound class. After weighing in the record fish on Christmas Eve, they went back on the lake where McKenzie landed a 10 pounder. They’re using Murphies’ Catfish Bait.

Junior angler records are open to anyone 16 or younger. Juniors are not required to buy a fishing license. Texas fishing license requirements begin at age 17.

Junior records are unclaimed in many categories in lakes and rivers throughout Texas. The number one impediment to kids setting more fish records is the requirement that the fish be weighed on certified scales. Since most record catches are unplanned, adults are not prepared to deal with the certification process. Moreover, they don’t know the fish records for a given water body.

All the rules are online at tpwd.texas.gov. If you mentor a young angler interested in pursuing records, it’s good to know the procedure. Most lakes don’t have a Bass Pro Shops store.

In the photo, McKenzie is holding the 30.22-pounder in an unusual fashion, using her knee to help support the fish’s weight. McKenzie weighs less than 100 pounds and was not strong enough to otherwise hold the catfish.

That hasn’t stopped her from catching much bigger fish. Last summer, fishing at Islamorada, Fla., she hooked, landed and released a six-foot nurse shark estimated at 150 pounds.

Aside from alligator gar, blue catfish are the biggest fish most Texas freshwater anglers are likely to encounter. Lane Ferguson holds the state junior record with a 66.20-pounder from Lake Worth. His dad is Chad Ferguson, one of the area’s top catfish guides.

At least eight Texas lakes have produced rod-and-reel blue cats bigger than 70 pounds, all caught by adult anglers. The state record weighed 1211/2 pounds, caught in 2004 by Cody Mullennix. He was bank fishing at Lake Texoma.

When Mullennix caught the Texoma blue, it qualified as the world record. That mark has since been eclipsed three times. The most recent blue catfish record was set at Buggs Island Lake, Va., in 2011. The huge fish weighed 143 pounds.