In April 2023, an angler made national headlines after the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks (KDWP) announced that a giant white crappie he’d caught was the biggest ever recorded in Sunflower State history. Bobby Parkhurst’s four-pound panfish broke a 60-year-old state record, according to a press release issued at the time, but it would only stay in the top spot for a few short months. In November 2023, KDWP amended their press release, striking Parkhurst’s record from the books after executing a search warrant at his home and seizing the fish from his freezer.
Parkhurst caught the crappie in dispute at Pottawatomie State Fishing Lake No. 2 near Topeka on March 5, 2023. He was fishing with a rod and reel and using a minnow for bait, KDWP said in its April press release. “As fisheries biologists, we get the chance to see a lot of big fish but this one is certainly for the books,” said KDWP assistant director of fisheries John Reinke, who recorded details about the fish’s size for the department.
The press release went on to state that Parkhurst’s crappie weighed 4.07 pounds, slightly heavier than the 4.02-pound crappie caught by Eureka’s Frank Miller in 1964. “This crappie measured in at 18-inches long and 14 inches in girth,” said Reinke. “So it truly deserves a spot on the state record list.”
Parkhurst’s crappie was officially dethroned on Nov. 14, 2023 when KDWP updated its original press release with the following line: “Upon further review by KDWP officials, the crappie caught by Parkhurst could not be confirmed; therefore, the previous record for Kansas’ largest crappie still stands (Miller, 1964).”
According to reporting by KSNT.com, KDWP agents seized the frozen crappie as part of a formal investigation into paperwork that Parkhurst filed after catching the fish. “They didn’t tell me anything,” Parkhurst told the local news outlet. “I don’t understand why they’re doing this to me.”
KDWP Public Information Officer Nadia Marji told KSNT that the investigation into Parkhurst’s fish began with a tip that the agency received after announcing his record in April of last year. “There was not an error in the verification process,” Marji said. “Rather, information supplied to the Department by the angler via his written application form was not ‘true and correct.’” If the application had been filled out accurately, Marji said, Parkhurst’s crappie never would have made the books.
In a Feb. 3 Facebook post, Parkhurst publicly denied KDWP’s allegations against him. “I went through all the bells and whistles as I was supposed to do,” he wrote. “They certified and gave me the master angler award. I waited the 30 days that they by law have to wait for all this investigation to be done. These officers came to my house unlawfully and took my fish after the kdwp announced me State record holder.”
In an email, Marji told F&S that the department’s decision to revoke Parkhurst’s record came down to the crappie’s weight, which was inaccurately represented in the paperwork that he submitted to the department. Obtaining a potential record-breaking fish’s weight on a certified scale “is the responsibility of the angler,” Marji said. “They are to take their catch to the nearest certified scale—usually this is a grocery store or meat locker, and then they are to provide photographic evidence to the Department of the weigh, along with proof that the scale has recently been certified. Our staff are not equipped with certified scales.”
Marji said that fisheries “staff were not able to replicate the same weight upon re-examining the catch,” after seizing the crappie from Parkhurst’s home. An official record keeping webpage on the KDPW website confirms that Frank Miller’s 1964 state record white crappie has been restored. Like Parkhurst, Miller caught the long-standing record on a traditional rod and reel using a minnow for bait. The International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record white crappie weighed more than 5 pounds. It was caught in Mississippi in 1957 by angler Fred Bright.