And now for a really big fish tale. A Shrewsbury crossbow hunter set the state record last month for landing a 46-pound 5-ounce mirror carp in Lake Quinsigamond.
But the behemoth wasn’t about to go quietly: Shane Felch and his two fishing buddies had to work hard to drag the behemoth from the shallows. In fact, for a while that April night, the carp took them on a joyride.
“It pulled us around for five or 10 minutes,” Felch said.
Although the 14-foot fishing boat and its three occupants were momentarily actors in an old-fashioned Nantucket sleigh ride, as whalers used to call it, Felch eventually reeled his beast onto the craft.
The previous record-holding mirror carp in Massachusetts was about 44 pounds, according to the state Department of Fish and Game (also known as MassWildlife). An angler pulled that fish from the Connecticut River in 1993.
Felch’s April 18 catch was even more extraordinary because he used a crossbow. Of the 25,000 or so sizable fish the state has logged since 1963, said Richard Hartley — fisheries biologist for the commonwealth, and program coordinator for MassWildlife’s Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program — only 11 have been caught by a conventional bow.
“This is probably the first one I’m aware of in which they specifically used a crossbow,” Hartley said.
This big fish tale is also a comeback story for Felch. Three years ago, he broke his neck in a motorcycle crash. Afterward, he was no longer able to draw a conventional bow.
But the state provides special permits for crossbow hunting in cases where hunters have suffered disabilities.
Hartley said carp are uncommon in Massachusetts’ lakes and ponds. But when they get into a body of water like Lake Quinsigamond, the fish can thrive.
“Carp go back a hundred-plus years,” said Hartley of the carp in the United States. “They were originally brought in by the Fish and Wildlife Service as a food source. Then, by escape or intentional release, they got into rivers.”
When the carp find a body of shallow water like parts of Lake Quinsigamond, Hartley said, “they tend to root around and get fresh roots and stems, they uproot plants, and they can actually have an impact on water quality, if their numbers get out of control.”
In the end, Felch gave away his trophy to a friend who likes to eat carp, even though the fish is not common dinner fare, Hartley said.
His record catch hasn’t slaked Felch’s thirst for the waters of Lake Quinsigamond. He’ll be back out shooting.
“There’s bigger fish in there,” he said. “Let’s put it that way.”
James O’Brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org