MENA (AGFC) – Thirty-five years is a long time for a state record to stand in the world of fishing. In Arkansas, three records have maintained that status longer than a 4-pound, 9-ounce black crappie caught by Danny Burfield of Ola, March 29, 1976.
Donivan Echols, 11, of Mena, raised the record in Arkansas – and perhaps in other parts of the world – to an even 5 pounds June 6 when he pulled a true slab from Lake Wilhelmina, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission facility in Polk County.
Donivan had fate on his side.
"He had made $75 working for his grandparents," said Richard Echols, Donivan's father. "He went to Walmart the day before (the crappie was caught) and I think he spent all $75 on a rod, reel and fishing tackle. He bought a Mitchell flip cast reel and he was trying to learn how to use it. I guess he figured it out."
Donivan – who was still 10 June 6 – his father and his uncle were crappie fishing using minnows that day. Donivan was catching progressively larger fish.
"We fish (Lake) Wilhelmina a lot," Richard said. "His uncle was 2 feet from him on one side and I was 2 feet from him on the other. We weren't catching anything, but Donivan was. I've never seen nothin' like this in my life."
They kept the fish alive for about two hours, and weighed it at Rocky Stop, a store and bait shop at Rocky on Arkansas Highway 8 where the trio purchased minnows earlier that day. It measured 18 inches long and had a 13-inch girth.
"It weighed 5 pounds, 1 ounce the first time we weighed it," Richard said. "It took five hours to get hold of Ronnie (Richardson) so we froze the fish. It lost an ounce the second time we weighed it.
"Ronnie was grinning ear-to-ear. He was proud because it's his lake."
Richardson, manager of the AGFC's Lake Wilhelmina Caged Fish Facility, identified the fish as a black crappie so it could be submitted as a state record. He said the lake, which covers about 200 acres and was created by a 1,240-foot dam in 1957, is known to have a healthy crappie population.
"It's got some 3- and 4-pounders in it, and I guess it had a 5-pounder in it," Richardson said.
Catching a 5-pound crappie is a tough act to follow, especially when the angler is 10, but Donivan has a plan.
"He wants to be a game warden and work with Arkansas Game and Fish," Richard said. "He loves to talk to game wardens."
His crappie may set records beyond Arkansas.
According to the International Game Fish Association, the all-tackle for black crappie is a 5-pound fish caught April 21, 2005, by John R. Horstman from a private lake in Missouri. The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum recognizes a 6-pound fish caught Nov. 28, 1969, by Lettie Robertson from Westwego Canal in Louisiana.
The 12-pound line-class record for both organizations is a 4-pound, 4-ounce fish caught by Sheril Harris, March 18, 1984, on Paint Creek in Alabama.
By the way, the IGFA record on 4-pound line is 4 pounds, 4 ounces, caught in Lake Wedington (Washington County) by Jack Ferguson Dec. 26, 1982.
"I didn't know this was such a big deal – I mean, it's a fish!" Richard said. "That boy is walkin' around in tall cotton."