Investigation Reveals Kansas Record Crappie Was Stuffed with Ball Bearings

Earlier this month an angler in Kansas railed against law enforcement officials for seizing his 2023 state-record crappie, claiming that he “caught the fish legally and honestly.” Now details of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks investigation obtained by Outdoor Life on Friday reveal that the angler, Bobby Parkhurst, appears to have tried to cheat his way into the record book. 

The state-record saga began on March 5, 2023, when Parkhurst caught a slab white crappie from a small public reservoir near Manhattan. The report details how Parkhurst first weighed his fish at one bait shop where it fell short of breaking the state record. Parkhurst then stuffed the fish with ball bearings before visiting another certified scale to obtain the heavier weight of 4.07 pounds that initially qualified it as a state record. Investigators proved this by X-raying the crappie after seizing it from Parkhurst’s home in April 2023.

“When staff used a handheld metal detector to scan the fish, the device detected the presence of metal,” KDWP public information officer Nadia Marji wrote in an email to Outdoor Life. “Wardens then took the fish to the Topeka Zoo for x-ray examination where it was revealed that two steel ball bearings were inside the crappie.”  

Marji confirms that wildlife officers began investigating Parkhurst on April 9, just five days after the agency certified Parkhurst’s white crappie as a new state record with a weight of 4.07 pounds. According to KDWP, investigators were acting on a tip from a bait shop owner who says he weighed Parkhurst’s crappie on March 5.  

“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” says the bait shop owner, who spoke with Outdoor Life on the condition of anonymity. “If it was a state record, I would have taken a picture of it. Typically when that happens, I have to fill out paperwork, measure the fish and check the weight, and I actually have to give the [angler] the serial number off my scale. That was not done on this fish.”

None of these things were done because, as KDWP confirms, Parkhurst’s crappie weighed just 3.73 pounds on the bait shop owner’s certified scale. This is why the shop owner was so suspicious when, in early April, he saw that the exact same fish had been declared a new state record with a certified weight of 4.07 pounds.

“Now, that’s a discrepancy,” the shop owner says.

A white crappie caught in Kansas.
A close-up view of Parkhurst’s crappie that was initially confirmed as a Kansas state record and then removed from the record book. Photograph courtesy KDWP

KDWP’s assistant director of fisheries John Reinke inspected the fish, and on April 4, after the mandatory 30-day waiting period was complete, the agency made Parkhurst’s record official. It edged out the previous record of 4.02 pounds that had stood since 1964. 

“As fisheries biologists, we get the chance to see a lot of big fish but this one is certainly for the books,” Reinke said of Parkhurst’s record-breaking crappie at the time. “This crappie measured in at 18 inches long and 14 inches in girth, so it truly deserves a spot on the state record list.”

Sometime around or before April 20, Parkhurst told reporters earlier this month, game wardens came to his home and seized the crappie from his freezer. 

Parkhurst claimed in a Facebook post that they came to his house “unlawfully,” and that the seizure of his fish amounted to “slander.” The angler also demanded that KDWP officials return his fish to him. (Parkhurst did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Marji denies that the search of Pakhurst’s home was unlawful, saying “[he] willingly let officials inside of his home to view and obtain the fish.” 

The investigation report also makes it clear that Parkhurst “voluntarily presented his fish for re-examination.” And when they re-examined the fish, the numbers didn’t quite add up. (When you’re dealing with a fish that averages around 2 to 3 pounds, .34 pounds is significant.) Investigators first inspected the two certified scales where Parkhurst weighed the fish, although the agency’s statement does not include the name of the second location where the fish was weighed. 

“Wildlife and Parks brought the Department of Ag. in, and they actually checked my scale,” says the bait shop owner who tipped off the agency in April. “It came up perfect.”

On Nov. 14, KDWP updated its press release saying Parkhurst’s crappie “could not be confirmed” and that the previous white crappie record set in 1964 still stands.

“I weigh a lot of people’s fish, so when they bring them here, I do my part,” says the bait shop owner. “But I don’t lie for nobody.”

An X-Ray Tells All

KDWP’s investigation eventually led to the x-ray of Parkhurst’s fish, which proved that the crappie had been tampered with in the time between when Parkhurst weighed it at the bait shop and when he had it re-weighed at a second location within the state. The x-ray images included in the agency’s investigation report show two steel ball bearings of differing sizes lodged in the crappie’s gut.

“As a result,” the report reads, “the Department nullified the angler’s catch as a state record, reinstated the previous record (Miller, 1964) and have since made the fish available for return to the angler.”

Marji says that as of Friday, Parkhurst has not reclaimed his fish from the agency. She also confirms that although KDWP submitted its case against Parkhurst to the local county attorney’s office for review, the attorney has declined to prosecute the angler.

The post Investigation Reveals Kansas Record Crappie Was Stuffed with Ball Bearings appeared first on Outdoor Life.