The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s fisheries biologists have certified a new state record shoal bass—5.95 pounds and 22.4 inches long. It was caught by 14-year-old angler Sheldon Grace of Headland, Alabama, from a kayak in the Chipola River near Altha, Florida.
“I fought him for about thirty minutes, and then when I got him close to the kayak, the jig popped right out of his mouth,” Sheldon said. “I quickly reached into the water and grabbed him because he was the biggest I’d caught all day.”
Sheldon and his father often fish for shoal bass and enjoy the beauty of the Chipola River, the only body of water in Florida with a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass. “Shoalies” are one of the five black bass species found in the state.
The FFWCC has implemented several conservation projects to enhance this unique fishery, as described in this YouTube video:
“You can definitely tell that the quality and quantity of the shoal bass in the Chipola River are getting better,” said Sheldon. “I had caught about six or seven two- to three-pounders, and then right at the end of the day, I caught the record.”
The former state record shoal bass weighed 5.2 pounds and was caught in 2016 by Jimmy Ray Tice on the Apalachicola River.