The 72-pound California State Record Striped Bass…that Never Was!

California State Record Striped bass?

I fished Thursday with a gentleman who used to own a big taxidermy shop. He asked if I wanted to see a picture of a 72.9-pound striped bass from the American River.

Of course I did!

When we pulled off the river in the afternoon, he pulled an old photo album out of his truck. It was mostly stuffed with old shots of his mounts, but then he handed me the above photo.

He said the guy on the right brought the mammoth striper to his shop one summer afternoon over 15 years ago to get it mounted. The fish had been sitting out in 105 degree heat all day and had dried out and was in extremely bad condition. When the taxidermist weighed it, the scale dipped to nearly 73 pounds!! He told the angler that he had a state record and should have it certified. The angler said he wanted no recognition and wanted to keep it a secret.

The taxidermist did as instructed but, upon closer inspection, said that the fish was in too poor of shape to do a skin mount and making a mold of it for doing a replica was also out of the question. In the end, they found a mold of a 69-pound striper from the East and painted it to match the guy’s Nor Cal fish.

Unfortunately, the angler has long since passed on and we’ll never know the whole story of the State Record that wasn’t. We don’t even know for sure it was taken on the American or what it was caught on. One thing’s certain: that’s one hell of a fish! Too bad he didn’t get a picture when the fish was just out of the water, but that was in the days before camera phones. Take a look at the size of the jaw on that fish compared to the guy’s head…looks like it would fit in the giant hen’s mouth!


  1. Mark O says

    Well… remember, back in that time frame, catch & release was a new concept. Many guys back then kept everything they caught. It was only when people started recognizing the waste and the idea that it was okay to recycle fish (recall Lee Wulff’s remark!). We’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go!

  2. Jeremiah says

    Pretty awesome story but what a waste. A state record fish left to cook in the sun and probably ended up in the dumpster. No skin mount was made so a few good pictures would have been all the taxidermist needed to paint the replica. I don’t blame them for keeping it, that’s their choice but to just let it go to waste…

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