Matt Neuling of Perryville envisions setting a fishing record every time he goes out in a boat. Perhaps that kind of confident attitude helps get him in the proper mindset.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, July 24, Neuling hauled in a 125 1/2 pound bighead carp at Lake Perry that may soon be a state record.
“We were on the front deck of the boat, bowfishing,” Neuling said.
The fish was four to five feet away from the boat when it was initially spotted.
Neuling saw what he estimated was a 30 to 40-pound grass carp. Both Neuling and his friend, Nick Mayfield of Patton shot an arrow at the fish.
Neuling’s arrow sank into the fish and remained there. Mayfield’s arrow pulled out of the fish immediately.
“My arrow shot straight through and stayed in the whole time,” Neuling said. “As soon as that arrow went in the water we lost it, we couldn’t see it anywhere, that’s how deep it was. If it was another two feet deep we would have never seen the fish.”
Neuling fought it for 15 minutes or so. When the fish neared the boat, his friend was able to put another arrow in it. This time it stayed in place. They were using 31-inch arrows with a bow fisher tips.
“It just put us in shock,” Neuling said when the fish was in the boat. “We’ve never seen one that big. We knew what type of fish it was but had never seen one that size.”
The species are not native to Lake Perry, according to Neuling.
Neuling speculated that someone was using minsomeone was using minnows as bait and released the unused bait into the water. One of the minnows was a bighead carp, and just kept growing. Neuling estimated the bighead carp was “30-plus” years old.
The length of the fish was 63 inches (five feet, three inches) while the girth was 52 inches (four feet, four inches).
Neuling caught the potential record-breaker at approximately 1:30 a.m.
Without a second arrow getting into the carp, Neuling didn’t sound very optimistic about landing the large fish.
“You talk about a fight, if my buddy wasn’t there I would’ve ended up in the lake,” Neuling said. “It was huge.”
He contacted local conservation agent Chris Doran and the fish was weighed on a certified scale at M & M Meats. The fish weighed in 125.5 pounds at M & M Meats Saturday, July 24.
Doran said for now it’s “unofficially” a state record. The entry needs processed and recorded by MDC at its Fisheries Branch in Jefferson City for final approval.
For now, the existing record is 106 pounds. That was set in April 2011 at Lake of the Ozarks.
The individuals at M & M Meats couldn’t believe the size of the fish, according to Neuling.
“Everyone was speechless,” he said. “They had never seen a fish that big.”
“I’ve shot them in the river and they are not near that big,” Neuling said. “That’s the crazy part about it. That might be the only one in there. It wasn’t supposed to be in there in the first place.
Gene Swope of Excelsior Springs holds that mark, after snagging a bighead carp April 23, 2011.
Since the catch was out of the water so long, the meat won’t be usable for human consumption.
Neuling, who wants to see if the huge catch can get mounted, will likely find a way to get part of that fish back into the water.
“It’s catfish bait,” he said.
Prior to Saturday’s big catch, the largest fish Neuling landed was a 47-pound grass carp.
“Most of the time, I go bow fishing at night,” he said. “The fish never surface.”
Typically, the fish get within two to five feet of the surface.
He is grateful a second arrow from his friend helped land the fish.
“If he wouldn’t have shot it when I had it up by the boat, there wouldn’t have been any way to get that fish in,” Neuling said.
The record catch has been weighed. However, it is awaiting final certification from the Missouri Department of Conservation. He felt like being a state record holder was pretty significant.
“It would mean a lot,” he said. “That’s my dream every time I go out, try to beat a state record, some how, some way.”
Neuling is optimistic more local anglers can land record-setting fish in the future.
“They’re around,” Neuling said. “The thing is people just don’t think they are. Any where could be a potential record, any where you fish. It’s just of when and where it is, and how you catch it.”
A little farm pond could have large fish and a state record fish could be lurking in Perry County waters elsewhere, according to Neuling. He has heard large bass are in Perry County Community Lake.
“All it takes is one person to catch it,” Neuling said.
The state of Missouri has records for 71 different fish types, including three specifically for carp. They include bighead, common and grass carp. Neuling, 23, a 2016 Perryville High School graduate, has been using the bow and arrow while fishing for more than a decade.
“I started with my dad when I was younger and then went out by myself on a boat, sometimes I’ve gone with buddies,” Neuling said. “I do it every year from early spring to late summer, early fall.”