Slab crappie could be a new state record

Greenport, N.Y. — Richard Otty may have pulled a new state record fish through the ice. State fisheries officials just have to figure out what kind of fish.

There’s no doubt the fish Otty – a recently retired town highway worker – caught while ice fishing in January was a really big crappie, but it’s unclear whether it was a white crappie or a black crappie.

Either way, the slab of a fish is record size.

The Columbia County man was ice fishing on Kinderhook Lake with his brother Jan 9.

It was actually a slow day, Otty said. Using a tip-up and shiners for bait, he only caught one fish all day, but what a fish it was.

“I caught it at 10 a.m. I had been out there since 6 a.m.,” Otty said. “It was a nice one. It was only the second time I fished that lake. My brother lives on the lake. When I pulled it out of the water, my brother said ‘What have you got, a bass?’ It was a shocker. I fished the rest of the day until 4:30. My brother said,  ‘You’ve got to get it weighed.’”

After they were done fishing for the day, Otty took his catch to Hudson River Bait & Tackle in Rensselaer to be officially weighed. Owner Kevin Ryan certified the fish as 18 and a half inches long; it tipped the scale at 3 pounds, 13 ounces.

The current state record black crappie weighed 3 pounds, 12 ounces and was caught in 1998 on Duck Lake in Cayuga County. The record white crappie was caught in 2001 on Sleepy Hollow Lake in Greene County and weighed 3 pounds, 13 ounces.

The only problem now is figuring out which one of those records applies in this instance, said DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino.

“A large crappie was indeed caught from Kinderhook Lake and an angler achievement award form submitted to DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries,” Severino said. “The fish exhibited some characteristics associated with black crappie, but some associated with white crappie. Since there is a possibility of it being a new state record black crappie, and given the absence of definitive external characteristics, DEC staff forwarded a tissue sample of the fish to the New York State Museum and genetic analyses are being performed. Results are not in yet.”

If it turns out to be a black crappie, Otty’s catch would edge the old state record by an ounce. If it’s determined to be a white crappie, it would tie the existing record. In the meantime, the fish sits on ice at Hudson River Bait &Tackle.

As Otty waits for a verdict, his only regret is that he didn’t get the crappie – white or black – weighed sooner.

“We just stayed out there fishing. My brother kept saying maybe we ought to get it checked,” Otty said. “Eventually we had it done. Eight hours later we got it weighed. If we had done it sooner, it would have weighed a lot more.”

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