Gabriella Marie Puma was joining in on celebrating her grandfather Bruce Henderson’s birthday at Lake Tugalo on March 31 when she caught a record-class yellow perch.
The family was fishing a bit after 12 noon off the dock of the Stone Place boat ramp on the Georgia side of Lake Tugalo. They had eaten lunch and were simply enjoying their time together, when they decided to start fishing.
“My daughter and son-in-law brought the grandkids out, and we had lunch out there, started a little fire and roasted some marshmallows. Then they decided to go fishing,” said Bruce.
All of the grandchildren had just been given new fishing poles, so they were all excited to try them out. But Gabriella’s fishing pole wasn’t working right. So her grandfather did what all grandfathers would do.
“I let her use grandpa’s big pole, and she was all excited about that,” Bruce said.
Before handing it over, Bruce attached a cork to the line and turned Gabriella over to her dad. The two walked down the dock a little ways and Dad cast the line for her. He had her sitting in his lap and told her to watch the cork, and that if it started to bobble, she needed to start reeling.
“About three minutes later, it started going down, and she started yelling, ‘The cork’s down, the cork’s down,’ and she started reeling,” said Bruce.
Gabriella’s grandmother, Phyliss Henderson, pulled the fish out of the water, and the whole family was surprised and excited. At first, they were unsure what the fish was, but Phyliss recognized it to be a yellow perch. Later on that day, Bruce took the fish to be weighed and measured. It weighed 1-lb., 6-ozs. and was 14 inches long. Knowing that it was an exceptional catch, Bruce looked at the history of yellow perch in Lake Tugalo.
“I got to thinking about it… and that’s the biggest yellow perch I’ve seen caught. I thought it might be a record. I looked it up (in the February issue of GON magazine), and there wasn’t a yellow perch record listed for Tugalo,” said Bruce.
However, Bruce wasn’t aware that a Tugalo yellow perch was caught Feb. 18, 2017 and certified as a new lake record. Johnny Cannon’s 1-lb., 15.6-oz. yellow perch is the mark to beat on Lake Tugalo.
The Hendersons are well aware of Lake Records because Phyliss Henderson holds the mark for the lake-record walleye for Tugalo. Her 8-lb., 15.02-oz. walleye has held the record since she caught the fish on April 23, 2014.
GON keeps official records for various fish species for all of Georgia’s major lakes and rivers.
When Bruce had the fish weighed and certified, the biologist turned in Gabriella’s scores for an Angler Award, which is presented by Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division.
While not a lake record, Gabriella’s family was surprised and incredibly excited by her big catch.