May 16, 2019
What looked like a state-record walleye in North Dakota a month ago has turned out to be not one for the record books.
North Dakota Game and Fish said this week that the 16-pound, 9-ounce walleye caught on April 21 out of the Hart River will not be certified as a record.
“Based on the evidence provided, department officials have concluded the fish was foul-hooked, and therefore cannot be recognized as a state record,” the agency said in a statement.
At first, the catch by Tom Volk of Lincoln, N.D., was believed to have beaten the record (15 pounds, 13 ounces) set last year by Neal Leier on the Missouri River. But that news created a whirlwind of harsh reaction on social media.
North Dakota Game and Fish originally congratulated the angler in a Facebook post, but quickly began hearing from witnesses that the fish had been foul-hooked, and therefore not a legal fish.
“After the fish was visually verified by Game and Fish, and information was released about its record weight, we started receiving information that the fish may have been foul-hooked, which led to the subsequent investigation,” the agency said. “Statements from eyewitnesses and other information contributed to the eventual finding.”
Volk, who said he likely will not appeal the decision, told the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead that he’s convinced it was a legal catch and that the evidence was “inconclusive at best.”
The angler told the Grand Forks Herald that he has received a lot of negative reaction — “I’m being cyberbullied,” he said — since the catch and subsequent investigation. Reaction came almost immediately and included video evidence that seemed to show the fish was foul-hooked. See that video and read the Grand Forks Herald's fascinating look at the investigation HERE, in which Volk also shared photos he says support his side.
According to the state: “Possession of foul-hooked fish is illegal. Any foul-hooked fish must be immediately returned to the water regardless of condition. A foul-hooked fish or snagged fish is defined as any fish hooked or caught in any area from behind the gill covers to the tail.”
To qualify as a state record, a fish must be harvested in accordance with rules for recreational fishing.
Anglers can visit the Game and Fish website, to see a complete list of state record fish requirements.