Local angler eats possible state record fish

As an outdoor writer, I hear a lot of strange stories about happenings in the great outdoors and many fish stories especially about the "one that got away."

Recently, I got a phone message from local angler Bob Ponting who advised me of some strange news.

"Don, give me call, I think I caught a state record bluegill, but I ate it!," was the message I heard. I had to listen to it again to make sure of what I heard.

When Ponting and I got together a few weeks later he related to me a story that will probably haunt him forever.

Seems that Ponting and his good friend Art Garcia were fishing at Lake Havasu.

The plan was to try and catch some largemouth or smallmouth bass.

"It was suppose to be just a fun fishing trip," Ponting said.

It was mid-morning on a warm, late fall day when Ponting said he decided to try and use a live nightcrawler on one of his poles.

"I put on a half of a nightcrawler and tossed it over the side," he said.

The pair was slowly working their way around some rocky ledges when Garcia hollered that Ponting's rod was bending.

Ponting grabbed the rod and set the hook.

"I thought I had a big bass on," he said.

But it wasn't a bass that ended up in the boat. It was the largest bluegill that both men had ever seen.

Being he likes to eat fish, Ponting put the giant bluegill into the ice chest and continued to fish. Before they quit, they landed a dozen of the panfish. Garcia caught one that weighed well over a pound.

They weighed and measured Ponting's big fish and they were shocked at what they saw.

The fish was 16.1 inches long, and had a girth of 22 ½ inches. On their scale, it weighed 3.97 pounds!

Remember this is a bluegill, and not one of the giant Redear Sunfish that inhabit the lake. Right now, the current lake record for a Redear Sunfish is a whopping 5.5 pounds and that fish was 16.75 inches long.

Where Ponting made his mistake was not taking the fish to have it weighed on a registered state certified scale.

The current state record for a bluegill caught in the Colorado River waters is 3 lbs. 10 oz. That fish was caught in the Laughlin Pond on Sept. 14, 2010. That record fish was 15.5 inches long.

Ponting's fish was over a half inch longer and at least 4 ounces heavier.

Ponting did send the information and a photo of the fish to Arizona Game & Fish Department in Phoenix where it was verified as a bluegill.

Ponting confirmed that he filleted the big fish and ate it.

This isn't the first time that Ponting has been involved with a potential state record fish. In 2009, Ponting caught and released a yellow bass at Lake Mary that just might have been another state record fish. As it was, he did get the Fish of the Year honors from the Department for "Catch and Release."