JEFFERSON CITY–Nicholas J. Wray of Harrisonville could have rested on his laurels after catching a Missouri State-record river carpsucker on pole and line in 2008. Instead, he doubled his fun and caught another record fish, establishing a monopoly on records for that species.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) keeps fishing records in two categories–pole and line and alternative methods. The first category is for hand-held lines with bait or artificial lures. The alternative-methods category is for fish taken by other means, such as limb lines, bank poles, archery gear, gigs or snagging.
Wray caught his 5-pound, 6-ounce river carpsucker May 6 on a trotline about 100 yards from the spot where he earlier caught a 2-pound, 3-ounce fish of the same species on a pole and line. He was fishing the South Grand River near Amarugia Highlands Conservation Area, in Cass County.
For most anglers, doubling up this way would be a stroke of luck. In Wray's case, it was deliberate.
“I knew both records for river carpsucker were open, so I went for them,” says Wray, who worked a short stint with MDC before settling into a job with the Cass County Public Works Department.
Wray, 25, also holds a state fishing record for a 2-pound, 4-ounce black bullhead he caught on a jug line in 2010. He came within 8 pounds of breaking Missouri’s pole-and-line record for the flathead catfish, which currently stands at 77 pounds, 8 ounces.
Despite that disappointment, Wray remains undaunted.
“I’m going to keep trying for the flathead record, but I’ve also got my eye on the warmouth.
The alternative-methods record for warmouth, a type of sunfish, stands at a mere 5 ounces. MDC now requires a weight of at least 8 ounces to better that record. Wray figures he can do it, but he might have to travel to do so. Although a few warmouth occasionally crop up in his home area, they are much more common in the southeastern Missouri and the Osage River watershed.
Most warmouths top out around half a pound. However, the pole-and-line record, caught from a farm pond in Dunklin County, weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces.
Persistence plays an important role in Wray’s success. He guesses he fishes more than 200 days a year.
“Nobody 100 percent loves their job every day, so you have to look forward to the little things,” says Wray. “I go fishing about every night. If I had my way, I’d go every day.”
The chances of that happening are slim to none. Wray works three jobs, moonlighting in a cabinet shop and cutting firewood besides his regular job on the county road crew. But any time he isn’t working, he’s likely to be fishing.
“I even like fishing in the rain. I work 10-hour days, four days a week. If I get off late I can just go to a farm pond across the street until dark. Of a weekend, I like to go set lines in the evenings and check them in the morning, then work all day and go back and do it again.”
You might think that holding three state fishing records is some kind of record in itself. You would be wrong. That distinction belongs to Douglas Stilts of Wappapello, who holds seven records–white crappie by trotline, goggle-eye by trotline, spotted sucker by snagging, green sunfish by limb line, longear sunfish by trotline, redear sunfish by limb line and warmouth by limb line.
Douglas Stilts beware; Nicholas Wray is coming after your record!
Conservation makes Missouri a great place to hunt and fish. More information about Missouri fishing records is available at mdc.mo.gov/fishing/reports/records.