Jorge Garcia loves to fish. Yet, using the word “love” to describe his affection for angling is a lunker of an understatement. For him, fishing has been a lifelong passion that some might even call an obsession.
Garcia, who is a resident of Henderson, Colorado, spends more than 200 days a year fishing. With so much of his time spent on the water, stories and photos of big fish have become commonplace.
However, on April 16, 2021, while fishing at a small public lake in northeast Denver, Garcia hooked into something that even he did not expect.
“I was fly fishing for small rainbow trout,” said Garcia. “Suddenly, I felt a huge tug on my line and I could tell it was a really big fish. I first thought I must have hooked into a big carp.”
Using a 5-weight fly rod and a black-leech pattern, Garcia soon discovered that the “carp” on the end of his line was actually a huge smallmouth bass.
The monster “smallie” grabbed the artificial leech and then bolted in the opposite direction, stripping fly line from the reel.
After several minutes of careful give and take, Garcia was finally able to land the lunker bass. With the fish secured on the bank, he captured some photos with his cell phone and then placed the fish on his portable digital scale.
Garcia’s smallmouth weighed more than 7-pounds and measured 22.5 inches. The football-shaped bass also boasted an impressive 17.5 inch girth. Based on these stats, Garcia soon realized that his bass was big enough to potentially qualify as a new Colorado state record.
Unfortunately, Garcia did not submit his fish to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to have it officially weighed and inspected. He also froze the fish shortly after catching it, which closed the door on any chance it had to be included in the official record books.
“We typically don’t see smallmouth get this big in Colorado and this one would have likely qualified as a new state record,” said CPW Assistant Chief of Hatcheries Brandon White. “However, we have a detailed certification process that anglers must follow in order for their catch to be considered for our records program.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife tracks fish records by weight in 49 different species categories. The fish in question must be weighed on a state-certified scale, and a weight receipt must be signed by a person who witnessed the weighing. The fish, before being frozen, gutted or altered in any way, must also be examined and identified by a CPW biologist or district wildlife manager before an application is submitted.
Colorado’s official state-record smallmouth, which weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces, was caught by Raymond Ong at Aurora Reservoir in 2011. Ong’s record will remain in place until a larger smallmouth is caught and officially weighed and certified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Although he’s not an official state-record holder, Garcia says that he is thrilled to have caught a once-in-a-lifetime fish.
“I’m not a record seeker and that’s not what it’s about for me,” said Garcia. “I plan to have the fish mounted and it will look great on my wall even though it’s not an official record.”
While Garcia enjoys the challenge and thrill of catching record-sized fish, he says that helping others discover the joy of fishing is, by far, the biggest reward.
“I have a lot of great memories of volunteering for the Wounded Warriors program and getting those guys on fish,” said Garcia. “I especially love helping kids. There’s nothing like seeing that smile on a kid’s face when they catch their first fish.”
Did You Know?
Colorado Parks and Wildlife tracks state-fishing records under two categories; one by weight (kept fish) and the other by length (released fish). CPW recently revised and updated its State Fishing Records by length program, which allows anglers to practice catch-and-release while still being recognized as a state-record holder.
For more information about Colorado’s State Fishing Records and the rules and requirements to participate in both programs, please visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Fishing Records page.
Story and video by Jerry Neal. Neal is the senior video producer and media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Jorge Garcia is Neal’s friend and neighbor, which is how Neal learned of Garcia’s record-sized catch. The name of the water where Garcia caught his bass was purposely omitted from this story/video to prevent “hot-spotting” this location.