A new state record has been broken in West Virginia for a fish that doesn’t grow to big proportions. Last year while fishing on Summersville Lake, Clinton Mills of Ravenswood hooked into what he thought was another walleye. The surprise came when the fish was brought to the surface and his fishing buddy Sam Cowell slid the net under it.
The fish wasn’t another walleye that they had been catching but one of the walleye’s preferred prey species, the yellow perch. And what a perch it was! The fish was a female full of eggs that looked like it was ready to explode. Right then, both Sam and Clint new that the impressive perch had the potential to break the state record.
After a good day of fishing on the lake they took an official weight and their suspicions were confirmed when the scales read 2.04 pounds which did indeed break the previous record of 1.93 pounds which was also caught in Summersville Lake by Joshua Estes in 2012. The new state record perch measured 14.5 inches but it broke the record for the heaviest perch ever caught in West Virginia.
Sam and Clint have been fishing together for a while now as they were college roommate’s back in the day. I had classes with both of them while attending Glenville State College. Being a Clint, you don’t meet very many people with such a cool name so I knew he was a good guy the first time I met him. Clint Mills practices internal medicine during the day now but on his days off, he’s usually fishing somewhere.
His state record perch was caught on a live minnow in about 30 feet down where they were targeting walleye. Summersville Lake is well known for its walleye fishery and with the help of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) it’s going to get even better. Currently as I type this, WVDNR personnel are clearing woody debris for food plots and taking the material into the lake bed. The purpose is two-fold in that the clearings are going to create a food source for the wildlife and the woody debris is going to create fish habitat.
Sam Cowell works for the WVDNR as the Summersville Lake Wildlife Manager and has been involved in the process. Summersville Lake is drawn down to winter pool every year and has been lacking woody structure for quite some time. It’s the perfect opportunity to drag some logs into the lake bed and create better fish habitat for perch and other prey species of fish which will in turn help the walleye population.
There are two strains of walleye swimming in Summersville Lake right now but the WVDNR is working to bring back the native strain. Years ago, Great Lakes strain of walleye were introduced to Summersville Lake but they’ve since found out that they don’t grow as big as the native strain. The WVDNR electroshock’s the lake early spring and collects the native strain of walleye. They are placed in a holding pin until fin clippings verify that they are indeed the native strain from looking at the DNA.
Once confirmed, eggs are taken from the females and milt from males are added to them. After fertilization the eggs are taken to a WVDNR hatchery until the fry hatch out. The fingerling fry are then placed back into the Gauley River where Summersville Lake is formed to grow into adults. In the years to come the WVDNR is hoping that the native strain of walleye will take over creating an even better fishery which is something every fisherman or woman can appreciate.
Clint Mills holds the current state record for the heaviest perch in West Virginia but with the work that’s being done on Summersville Lake who knows how long it will stand. I actually got to see the state record fish as Sam had it in his freezer until it was confirmed. It definitely looked like a state record as I’ve never seen a perch that big before.