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Dylan Runge (left), Nathan Hapner (holding the fish), and Kevin Hapner caught a bighead carp that was 43 inches long and weighed about 45 pounds. Photo courtesy of Dylan Runge.

Trio catches 45-pound bighead carp

July 12, 2013 at 07:30 AM

The State Journal-Register

In a Hemingway-esque tale of men and large fish, three young anglers spent seven hours trying to catch a 45-pound bighead carp below the Sangchris Lake spillway last weekend.

Dylan Runge, Nathan Hapner and Kevin Hapner tried everything to get the fish — normally a filter feeder — to bite. Finally, the monster inhaled the bait and the three were able to land “the largest fish any of us have ever seen, let alone caught,” Runge said.

Dan Stephenson, assistant chief of fisheries for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said the fish likely swam up the creek leading to the spillway from the South Fork of the Sangamon River during recent flooding.

When the water receded, the fish was trapped.

Bighead and silver carp were imported from China to keep fish-rearing ponds clean. They escaped and since have been invading the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois river systems.

Great pains have been taken to slow the spread of the fish to keep them out of Lake Michigan, where they could threaten a sport fishery worth billions of dollars.

But invasive species or not, catching a 45-pound fish was a thrill.

“It was so hard to catch it, it was all about timing,” Runge said. “We would have to get the bait right in front of it, and it would have to open its mouth wide to filter feed.

“And the bait went right in. Well, not exactly right in. It took hundreds of tries before it actually went into its mouth.”

The Illinois state record bighead carp taken by hook and line is 69 pounds.

Since Asian silver and bighead carp do not readily pursue bait or lures, many anglers try to snag them.

Snagging season generally runs Sept. 15-Dec. 15 and March 15-May 15.

Other anglers prefer the thrill of using archery equipment to take jumping silver carp in the air or bighead carp in shallow water.

Check the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Illinois Fishing Information booklet for specific rules:

Avoiding the invasives

While it appears the fish caught below the spillway was not from Lake Sangchris, anglers should take care not to accidentally introduce Asian carp to new bodies of water by dumping unused minnows into the water.

Biologists call those events “bait-bucket introductions.”

Stephenson said the good news is that Asian carp accidentally introduced to Sangchris or Lake Springfield likely would not be able to reproduce. Their eggs need at least 60 miles of flowing water for proper development, he said.

“The point is there are no major tributaries coming into the lake,” Stephenson said. “The same is true for Lake Springfield, although Lick and Sugar Creeks are larger tributaries, they still don’t have enough length for Asian carp reproduction. If they get into Lake Decatur, Shelbyville or Carlyle, there is a possibility they could reproduce, but even then they may not.”

Stephenson said he has received an unsubstantiated but reputable report of a silver carp found in Lake Springfield. “The good news is it won’t reproduce here,” he said.

He said that so far, no young Asian carp have been found above Starved Rock on the Illinois River or Pool 12 on the Mississippi River.

“There are other factors affecting reproduction,” Stephenson said. “Regardless, I hate to see them anywhere.”

The lesson for anglers is not to test the system by bringing fish from one body of water to use as bait in another.

“It can create a terrible problem and is illegal,” Stephenson said.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him at

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