Washington Co. man receives award for catching state-record paddlefish

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WASHINGTON, Mo. — Nobody has to tell Andy Belobraydic III that Missouri is a great place to fish. He discovered that for himself. The Richwoods angler landed the Missouri State Record paddlefish March 22 on Table Rock Lake. Belobraydic's fish weighed 140 pounds, 9 ounces and bested the standing record of 139 pounds, 4 ounces, also caught at Table Rock. The previous state record paddlefish reigned unchallenged for over a decade, having been caught in 2002.

On May 12 Belobraydic, 33, was presented with the official state record plaque in Washington by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Regional Fisheries Supervisor Lynn Schrader.

It was Belobraydic's very first attempt at paddlefish snagging when he set out on Table Rock Lake March 21.

"We were on our second day of snagging (March 22). It was about 5:00 in the afternoon and I hooked something I thought was a log at first," said Belobraydic. "30 minutes later it took three of us to pull him in the boat — and it was a state record paddlefish."

Belobraydic said all three of them had to bear hug the fish to get the monster into their boat after the half-hour struggle.

The 2015 paddlefish snagging season ran March 15 through April 30. Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), also known as spoonbills, are shark-like fish with a greatly elongated paddle-like snout. These big-water fish can grow to about seven feet long and weigh as much as 160 pounds.

Belobraydic 's prize was caught on Table Rock's James River arm in Stone County. It measured 56 ¾ inches in length and had a girth of 43 ¾ inches.

"I kinda went into a state of shock; it was the biggest fish I'd ever caught," Belobraydic said.

The fish was taken to MDC's Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery near Branson where it was weighed on a certified scale. The catch was officially certified as a state record the following morning.

"It was a day unlike any other," said Belobraydic. "I'm ready to go again!"

The Missouri State Record Fish Award recognizes an angler's top achievemet — catching the biggest fish of a particular species in Missouri's history. Those, like Belobraydic, whose fish satisfies the criteria for being a new state record are awarded a plaque and a place on the State Record Fish List. For more information about and a complete list of Missouri State Record Fish, go to mdc.mo.gov/node/2476.