Spearfisherman Lands Possible World-Record Paddlefish in Arkansas Lake

by Lauren Boisvert

Berryville, Arkansas resident Chris Cantrell managed to spear a huge paddlefish while diving in Northwest Arkansas’ Beaver Lake over Labor Day weekend. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission claims the 90-pound specimen could be a potential world record holder.

Cantrell, along with his friend Andy Jeffries and brother-in-law Kalvin Cackler, was diving in the lake on September 3. They were initially looking for striped bass and carp that day. But, Cantrell saw the paddlefish and decided to give it a go, according to Outdoor Life.

“I was on my third and final dive of the day when I saw it,” Cantrell told the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission after his catch. “I was maybe 15 to 20 feet underwater when I saw the large shape, I thought it was a gar at first, but then I was able to get close enough to see what it was and take the shot.”

Arkansas Spearfisherman Lands Massive Paddlefish, Has a Potential Record-Holder On His Hands

Outdoor Life reports that Cantrell’s speargun was outfitted with a float line. This allowed him to take a shot at the heavy paddlefish without being dragged down with it. “I dropped the gun after the shot because the fish made a strong dive when it was hit,” Cantrell explained. “With a big fish, you drop the gun so that it doesn’t pull you down. The float line will keep it pinned. By the time I was back at the surface, the fish had already pulled the line from the gun and the 50 feet of float line. It was pulling against the float at the surface.”

Cantrell had to work the fish to the surface with the main line. All the while, it fought against the float line keeping it from diving too deep. The whole thing took fifteen minutes, but eventually, the fish came close enough for Cantrell to kill it. Cantrell, Jeffries, and Cackler knew they had a potential record in their boat. But, they needed to find a certified scale to make sure.

But, it was a holiday weekend, so finding a certified scale was a tough job. “The AGFC office was closed, and certified scales are required for any record submissions,” Cantrell explained. “My sister actually suggested we try calling a UPS store. To my surprise, one agreed.”

Only in Arkansas Can You Weigh A Fish At a UPS Store

The immense paddlefish came in at 90 pounds 12 ounces. The current world record is a 75-pound paddlefish speared in 2019 by Wesley Steward. So, safe to say, Cantrell definitely has a contender on his hands. Kalvin Cackler shared on Facebook that he and his brother-in-law are preparing the paperwork for the International Underwater Spearfishing Association, which keeps track of the record catches.

If he doesn’t have a world record, Cantrell at least has a definite state record. His fish falls under the “unrestricted tackle record” category in Arkansas’ fishing record books. This means any fish caught without the typical rod and reel. Outdoor Life reports that there are currently no paddlefish in that category. So, Cantrell definitely has something to celebrate with this catch.