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Spotsylvania resident Caleb Newton snags world-record snakehead

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It’s official: Caleb Newton, a Spotsylvania County resident, plumber and die-hard fisherman, has snagged a world record.

Within a few days, the Stafford County native will be able to hang the evidence on the wall—a certificate from the International Game Fish Association, confirming he caught a 17 pound, 6 ounce monster northern snakehead in Aquia Creek on June 1. The fish is also sometimes called a “Frankenfish.”

The previous record, 17 pounds, 4 ounces, was caught in Miki Kagawa, Japan in 2004.

“His record has been approved and we’ll be sending the certificate later this week, or early next week,” Jack Vitek, world-record coordinator for the Florida-based IGFA, said Monday.

Vitek said that Newton will actually have two world records: the all-tackle record for the northern snakehead—a predatory invasive fish that has spread from the Potomac River to other Chesapeake Bay rivers—and the record for the 20-pound line class.

The world-record certificate is the same one sent to IGFA record holders on more than 1,000 fish species.

“It’s signed by our president and an executive committee member, and gives basic details about the species caught, the weight and date of the catch,” Vitek said.

Newton, whose big-fish tale appeared in The Free Lance–Star a few days after the catch, was ecstatic.

“What they’re sending me, I don’t even know,” said the weekend angler who works for Rapidan Plumbing. “I’m just along for the ride.”

He’s also waiting to hear back from Berkley Fishing, the company that made the line (Berkley Big Game) and the fishing rod (Berkley Tactic) he used that day.

“I’m hoping they will send me some gear and apparel. I fish in tournaments and people know my name now. I’d like to wear a Berkley jacket,” he said.

Newton, 27, was fishing with Stafford buddy Phil Wilcox on Aquia Creek that day, in a tournament with 15 other boats.

The fish, a voracious predator with a brown, snakelike pattern along its sides, at first ignored a rubber worm. Then, Newton tried a crank bait—a plastic lure with multiple hooks and resembling a bait fish—and it struck.

“It took me about a minute to get it in the boat,” he said at the time. The three-foot-long fish barely fit in his cooler. Newton took his catch to Green Top sporting goods store near Ashland to have it weighed on official scales, and to John Odenkirk, fisheries biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and snakehead expert, for identification.

Virginia currently has no snakehead category for record fish. Snakeheads, which will eat practically anything that swims, were imported from Asia and first discovered in a pond in Crofton, Md., in 2002, and a Potomac River tributary in 2004.

Newton and his friends have been catching big snakeheads in and around Aquia Creek for several years, with a number tipping the scales between 12 and 14 pounds.

“I caught one 13 pounds on Saturday, and that one fought harder” than the world-record fish, Newton said.

Some bowfishermen, who frequent Aquia and other nearby creeks, have reported catching fish larger than 18 pounds, but those are not eligible for hook-and-line records.

Newton says he’ll enjoy his record as long as it lasts.

“How long it will hold up, I have no idea.”

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431