On Aug. 22, Esteban (Steve) and Donica Rangel of Copperas Cove took their children, 8-year-old Alexander, and 6-year-old Anthony, on a fishing trip to Belton Lake. Little did they know that a few hours later they would be submitting an application for a record-class fish.
The Rangels fish together routinely as a family, heading to Belton Lake in pursuit of catfish several times per month, fishing from their 1978 Ranger boat, powered by a 150-horsepower Mercury Black Max outboard motor.
By many accounts, fishing on Saturday was a bit slow as some unstable weather put the fishing off a bit.
In fact, the record catch the Rangels made was the only fish they caught the entire trip.
Around 10:30 in the morning the family sat at anchor in about 30 feet of water with their baits on bottom in slightly deeper water in the main basin of the lake, along the reservoir’s south shore, after they launched out of Westcliff Park.
The Rangels prefer to use a Carolina-rig setup for their catfishing. Their 40-pound-test monofilament main line, with a 4-ounce weight on the end, is tied to a swivel which keeps the weight from slipping past. Below the swivel is a short leader to which a size 9/0 Mustad Demon fine-wire circle hook is attached. The Rangels prefer to bait up with large pieces of fresh, dead shad. On this morning they were using a chunk of frozen gizzard shad.
The B ‘n’ M casting rod coupled with an Okuma Classic baitcaster which the record fish struck was tethered to the boat via a rod holder. When the large catfish struck, the rod, which was on the starboard gunwale, went down suddenly. Instantly line began to strip off the reel against the drag and the reel’s audible bait-clicker sounded off.
Alexander, a third-grade student at Martin Walker Elementary School, fought the fish until it came to boatside where his parents helped bring it aboard.
According to the family’s digital scale, the fish weighed 10 pounds, 9 ounces.
After landing the fish, the Rangel’s contacted family friend and fellow angler Brandon Jouett.
Jouett was familiar enough with the typical quality of the catfish coming out of Belton to know this fish, a channel catfish, was an exceptional catch. He suggested the family contact me to assist in processing the potential record catch.
Donica contacted me in my capacity as a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department weigh station. I talked her through the record book options open to junior anglers (those under the age of 17), which included a kept fish option which goes by weight, or a released fish option which goes by length.
Because the family desired to release the fish alive, they went with the catch-and-release category option. Their pending water body record channel catfish measured 29 inches.
The current record channel catfish weighed 8.01 pounds and was 25.13 inches in length. It was also captured by a junior angler back in July of 2018.
According to his mother, Alexander is a well-rounded young man who enjoys indoor activities, like video games, just as much as he enjoys outdoor activities, like fishing.
Donica said TPWD told her that due to a processing backlog brought on by COVID-19, Alexander would likely not see his certificate arrive until sometime in November. The water body record certificates issued by TPWD indicate that the record is official. They list the basic capture details and have a gold-colored State of Texas Seal affixed to the document.