Monster Tennessee Musky
When it comes to fishing records, Steven Paul decided one was enough for him.
Paul, a popular local session guitarist, caught the state record muskellunge in 2017 — a 51-⅜ incher on Melton Hill Reservoir. It weighed 43 pounds, 14 ounces.
He recently landed another behemoth, a 55-inch musky on Watts Bar Lake in Spring City, which is about 120 miles east of Nashville.
Paul, however, was not willing to kill his latest catch in order to enter it into the state record books. After measuring it and snapping a few pictures, he released it.
"I just chose not to claim it because I already have the record," Paul said. "And I did not want to kill the fish just to get it entered into the books."
In 2017 Steven Paul set the Tennessee state record with this musky, which measured 51 3/8 inches in length and weighed 43 pounds, 14 ounces.
Paul is a strict catch-and-release fisherman. He would not have set the state record with the musky he caught in 2017 had it not died when he tried to release it.
Paul said he believed the 20-minute fight that fish put up did it in.
Because the fish was already dead, Paul took it to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency where biologists confirmed it was the largest ever caught in the state.
Paul caught his bigger musky last month in the Clinch River flowage that runs into Watts Bar in a depth of about 6 feet.
"It was caught on a Joe Bucher glide raider (lure), exactly the same bait I caught the state record on," Paul said. "That day was unbelievable. We caught some really nice fish."
After setting the state record in 2017, Paul started a guide service for muskellunge anglers at tennesseemuskyfishing.com.
"The reason that 55-incher is interesting is because you really don't expect a fish to be in the 55-inch class until you go into the extremes in Canada or on some of the premier waters in Wisconsin or Minnesota," Paul said.
"Your goal as a musky fisherman when you start off is to get what we call a 'legal,' which is a 30 (inches)," he said. "There are people who fish forever and their goal is just to catch that first 40-incher. That is a pure trophy fish anywhere you go. Most guys probably won't ever catch a 50. Then the class it takes to eclipse that 55-inch mark is insane."
Because the fish was caught in a shallower depth, Paul said it did not take long to get it into the boat.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.