Weights in Crappie? Kansas Angler Accused of Weighing Down “State Record”

by Braxton Taylor

When Bobby Parkhurst cried foul after he was stripped of his Kansas state record crappie earlier this year, many anglers were inclined to believe him.

He claimed to have caught the fish legally and honestly and jumped through all the hoops he was supposed to. He called the game wardens “bullies,” said they’re dishonest, and accused them of slandering him.

The comments under his Facebook post are generally supportive, and many question why Kansas officials decided to take his fish after initially granting him the new white crappie state record.

Now we know why, and it should sound familiar.

“To preserve the integrity of the Kansas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (KPWD) state record program, KDWP Game Wardens met with the angler who voluntarily presented his fish for re-examination,” KDWP spokeswoman Nadia Marji said. “When staff used a handheld metal detector to scan the fish, the device detected the presence of metal.”

How’d We Get Here?

Bobby Parkhurst caught a big ol’ crappie at Pottawatomie State Fishing Lake No. 2 on March 5, 2023. The fish was inspected and measured by John Reinke, the assistant director of Fisheries for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. After the required 30-day waiting period, the fish was weighed on a certified scale and clocked in at 4.07 pounds, five hundredths of a pound heavier than the previous state record, which was caught in 1964.

“As fisheries biologists, we get the chance to see a lot of big fish but this one is certainly for the books,” said Reinke at the time. “This crappie measured in at 18 inches long and 14 inches in girth, so it truly deserves a spot on the state record list.”

Normally, that would be the end of the story. But game wardens received a tip that there was something fishy about this crappie. So, in late April of 2023, they went to Parkhurst’s home and seized his fish.

Months later, in November of last year, they updated their press release and the state records, removing Parkhurst’s catch from the books. All they said in the press release was that the fish “could not be confirmed.” A spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks said that upon reexamination, the original weight of the fish could not be replicated or verified.

Weights In Fish

There was a reason that weight couldn’t be replicated. According to Marji, KDWP received a tip from an eyewitness who claimed the fish had been initially weighed at 3.73 pounds.

Game wardens went back to Parkhurst and seized the fish. They brought it to the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center, where they used an X-ray to peer inside (a somewhat more scientific method than the ol’ pocket knife). As can be clearly seen in the X-ray images provided by KDWP, they found that it contained two steel ball bearings, which would explain the discrepancy between the original weight and the subsequent weight.

Local media reports that KDWP officials have sent the results of the investigation to the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office. Kansas statute K.S.A. 21-5824 prohibits the making of false information to “induce an official action.” It is a severity level 8, nonperson felony, which is among the state’s lowest severe felony.

Outdoor news junkies (and pretty much everyone else) will recall a similar story playing out last year in which a pair of Ohio walleye anglers weighed down their fish with lead sinkers. Those two faced criminal charges, and the MeatEater crew caught up with the man who caught them in this podcast episode.

Feature Image: Kansas Parks and Wildlife Department

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