Great Falls angler lands record-breaking fish

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Great Falls angler lands record-breaking fish

Great Falls angler Jacob Bernhardt holds his state record longnose sucker caught in the Missouri River.

For the fifth time in less than a year, Montana will add a new state record fish to its books.

The latest fish is a longnose sucker, reeled in by Jacob Bernhardt of Great Falls on March 26. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Bernhardt was fishing on the Missouri River in Cascade County when he landed the 3.42 pound sucker. Bernhardt’s catch bested the prior record of 3.27 pounds set by Ray Quigley in May 1988 while fishing on the Marias River.

The longnose sucker is a bottom-feeding fish, eating aquatic plants, algae, and small invertebrates. It’s flesh is typically white and flaky, but bony. People frequently eat longnose sucker fillets, but the fish is commonly used as bait to catch larger and more desirable species such as bass, walleye, trout, northern pike, muskellunge and burbot. The average weight of a mature longnose sucker in Montana is one to two pounds.

The past year has been a remarkable one for sport fishing in Montana, with four other anglers reeling in record fish. These include a 32.05 pound Chinook salmon reeled in by Greg Haug from Fort Peck Reservoir on Aug. 16, 2020; a 7.84 pound smallmouth bass also caught in Fort Peck Reservoir on Oct. 3 by Theron Thompson; a 1.91 pound yellow bullhead pulled out of Tongue River Reservoir by Roberta Legge on Dec. 17; and a monster 32.42 pound brown trout landed on the shore of the Marias River on March 3, 2021 by Robbie Dockter.

With a total of 91 native and introduced fish species found in Montana, interest in fish records has increased in recent years. Anglers who think they may have caught a state record fish should keep the following things in mind:

  • To prevent loss of weight, do not clean or freeze the fish. Keep the fish cool — preferably on ice.
  • Take a picture of the fish.
  • Weigh the fish on a certified scale (found in grocery store or hardware store, etc.), witnessed by a store employee or other observer. Obtain a weight receipt and an affidavit from the store personnel if no FWP official is present. Measure the length and girth.
  • Contact the nearest FWP office to have the fish positively identified by a Fisheries Biologist or Manager.

A partial list of record catches in Montana is given below. Bold type indicates the species is native to Montana. A complete list of record breaking fish is maintained by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and is available on FWP’s website at

David Murray is Natural Resources/Agriculture reporter for the Great Falls Tribune. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email or call (406) 403-3257. To preserve quality, in-depth journalism in northcentral Montana, subscribe to the Great Falls Tribune.

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