Christian Pyles, age 13, with the new state record skip-jack. Caught May 5 in the tailwaters of the Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam. Submitted Photo
(Gallipolis Ferry) — The Pyle’s brothers of Mason County are no strangers to the Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam. Every evening from the time the snow stops flying you’ll very likely find them fishing in the tailrace of the dam along the Ohio River in Mason County.
"We usually go up there every day after school and stay until dark, or sometimes a little later," said 17-year old Trey Pyles in a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors.
However, May 5th was a special day for the Pyles brothers, especially for 13-year old Christian Pyles, a student at Point Pleasant Middle School. The brothers arrived as they always do and set out to try and hook a few skip jacks to use for catfish bait.
"We were at the lock and dam and usually we use white jigs," Christian told the statewide radio audience. "The first cast I caught it."
What he caught was the longest skip-jack every caught in the state of West Virginia. Skip-jack is considered freshwater herring and is normally used as bait. This one however, was bigger than Christian or his brothers had ever seen. The guys decided they would keep this one rather than cut it up for bait.
Record skip jack measured 18.9 inches
"We were just going to put it in the freezer and wait. When we got home and Chad (Pyles, Christian’s 23-year old brother) said maybe it’s a state record so he got the book out and looked it up," Christian explained. "Well, it’s not the record for weight, but maybe it’s the length and sure enough it was."
The boys quickly called Zack Brown at the West Virginia DNR who told them to meet him at the local Foodland to measure the fish. Zack’s tape measure certified the fish as the new state record, stretching the tape to 18.9 inches. The fish weighed 2.39 pounds. The record weight for a skip jack is 2.61 pounds, caught by Steve Skeen in 2002 from the Kanawha River.
Chad and Trey readily admit Christian is the master of catching the skip jacks for bait. It was quite a day for all three who spend the evening lifting sauger, smallmouth, and catfish in great numbers at the RCB Lock and Dam tailwaters. Turns out May 5th was quite a fishing day everywhere. That same day, at Krodel Lake, less than 15-miles away, another man caught a blue catfish that set a new state record for that category.