Last week, the Virginia Tourism Corporation named Wythe County’s Rural Retreat Lake as one of the Commonwealth’s “13 Favorite Campgrounds,” this weekend, a local high school student from Rural Retreat proved why the county managed park made the cut.
Saturday evening, Harley Mitchell, 17, was fishing from a boat with friends inside the 90-acre lake when he hooked what may have been a state record fish, a grass carp measuring nearly 4.5 feet in length.
According to Mitchell, it took him more than twenty-five minutes to reel in the mammoth fish and when he made it to shore, there were no scales capable of registering the weight of the fish.
Mitchell and his friends had their pictures taken with the carp and measured the fish, documenting its length to be 52.5 inches (4’ 4.5”).
If their measurement is correct, the fish at Rural Retreat Lake surpasses the largest documented catch of a grass carp in the entire nation. According to LandBigFish.com, the nation’s top grass carp was caught at West Virginia’s Warden Lake in 2005 and measured only 50.75” in length – nearly two inches shorter than this weekend’s catch at Rural Retreat Lake.
“We measured it from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail,” said Mitchell, adding that he released the fish back into the lake after taking pictures to prove his catch.
Officials from the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries say grass carp were introduced to the lake nearly 20 years ago as a means of controlling weeds.
Despite the fact that grass carp eat up to three times their body weight each day, the fish can be extremely difficult to catch due to their vegetarian habits and skittish nature.
“Mr. Mitchell’s catch over the weekend serves as a perfect reminder as to why so many people choose to vacation at Wythe County’s Rural Retreat Lake & Campground,” stated Jeremy T.K. Farley, Wythe County’s Tourism Director.
Kevin Williams, who serves as the county’s director of Parks & Recreation, echoed those same sentiments.
“It’s been a big year for the lake, last week we were included in Virginia Tourism’s ‘13 Favorite Virginia Campgrounds For Summer’ article and then this weekend we have a local high school student reel in what may have been a national record.”
Williams said that a lot of work from numerous governmental agencies go in to maintaining the lake and campground and that the county staff who works at the campground take great pride in the memories they help to create.
Rural Retreat Lake is managed by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and the campground is managed by the Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation.
The lake has a healthy population of muskies, northern pike and largemouth bass.
Individuals interested in making camping reservations at the Rural Retreat Lake may call (276) 686-4331.