FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lexington angler Clay Smith was trolling a pink and white Berkley Flicker Shad crankbait for trout on the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam when a fish struck.
“I hooked it and thought it was an extremely large trout or a walleye,” Smith said. “When I got it in the boat, I truly thought it was a walleye. My fishing buddy thought it was a sauger.”
It turns out it was both.
Smith’s 8-pound, 8.8-ounce fish is the new state record saugeye, a hybrid of a walleye and a sauger. Smith’s catch bested the two-month-old record held by Louisville resident Dennis Rhea, who caught his 6-pound, 13-ounce saugeye in Guist Creek Lake May 3, 2019. Smith caught his fish less than three weeks later, on May 21.
Smith weighed his fish on a certified scale after catching it, and then obtained the three witness signatures necessary to support a state record certification. He took his trophy home, wrapped it in a wet towel then placed it inside a freezer while deciding his next step.
“For two months now, we tried to figure out what it was,” he said.
Smith finally contacted the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for expert help. On July 17, he brought his fish to the department’s headquarters campus in Frankfort for identification and official certification.
A team of fisheries biologists examined the fish and unanimously declared it a saugeye.
“That thing is thick,” said Jeff Crosby, Central Fisheries District biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “It is definitely impressive. It is an awesome catch.”
It is rare to catch a saugeye in the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam. It is even rarer for Kentucky anglers to catch two state record saugeye in the same month.
For more information on state record fish, visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife webpage at fw.ky.gov.