Every fisherman worth his salt has a good “The one that got away” story.
It will take quite the tale to top Bobby Kotch.
Kotch, 46, who lives in Green, was fishing on vacation at Lake Istokpoga in Florida when he caught a 25-inch, 10.9-pound tilapia, big enough to break the Florida state record and world record once properly weighed and certified.
Except at the time, he didn’t know it was a record-breaking fish. He weighed it, measured it and took a picture.
Then he let it go.
Kotch was fishing for bass at the time and had never seen a tilapia, so he wasn’t sure what he had caught. It wasn’t until he identified the fish on a sign back at the boat ramp that he realized it was a tilapia.
And it wasn’t until he did some research online that he realized he had released the biggest tilapia ever caught. The official record is 24 inches and 9.6 pounds, caught by a Florida woman in 2011, meaning the Florida state record is also the world record.
“I talked to my two buddies in Florida and they said they’d never seen one that big,” Kotch said earlier this week. “I didn’t even think about it until I got home. I was mad I threw it back and didn’t keep it. It was just insane. I didn’t know what to think.”
Kotch has since been told that tilapia don’t often bite but were spawning at the time.
“I was using a spinner bait, with two blades that spin around on the end, and it must have been in its nest and it tried to grab it and kill it,” Kotch said. “It was a fluke thing, really.”
Nearly a month later, Kotch doesn’t have the world record, but he does have a pretty good story. And, as legendary fish stories go, he did snap a picture with the potential world record, a key piece of evidence — at least for his side of the tale.
“It was the catch of a lifetime, and I threw it back,” he said. “I was mad, but then, how can you be mad? I know I caught it. That picture is a good thing because a fish story without a picture doesn’t mean too much.”