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World Record Walleye - Catch and Release Winter Division - Caught in Saskatchewan
The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum has confirmed the Winter Live Release World Record for Division #4 Line/Pole Ice Fishing has been broken, and, it happened in Saskatchewan by a Saskatchewan angler!
Saskatchewan has a reputation for producing gargantuan walleyes. Beneath the surface of fisheries such as Tobin and Last Mountain Lakes, copious 12 to 15-pound fish eat the lures of anglers every season.
If Saskatchewan grows monsters, winter, it appears, may be the time to catch them. On Tobin Lake in January 2005, Reverend Mariusz Zajac iced an enormous 18.3-pound walleye—an eventual World Record in the Ice Fishing Rod and Reel, kept category. Doug Gane from Nipawin, held the previous Live Release Record catch, also pulled from Tobin Lake in 1998, at 32 inches.
Six years later, almost to the day, veteran angler Tim Geni slid another potential record-breaker onto the ice. This time, the fish was safely released to bite and fight another day.
On January 5, Geni, a successful tournament angler and Last Mountain Lake expert from the nearby town of Wilcox, caught a 33-3/4-inch (86-cm) walleye with a robust 19-3/8-inch girth. Having drilled a series of holes over a rock shelf with his 8-inch StrikeMaster auger, Geni began aggressively working a jigging spoon over 21-feet of water. At 9:30am, something big appeared on his MarCum flasher unit. Tim was out fishing with his friend and lure designer Pat O'Grady from PKlures.com that day.
“I was working my 3/8 oz Peral Chartreuse PKlures jigging spoon pretty aggressively,” says Geni, who has landed over 20 walleyes in the 12 to 15-pound range from Saskatchewan waters. “A sharp snap, and then a pause and drop allows the spoon to flutter horizontally. It’s a really effective way to decoy walleyes into your fishing area, and it makes them bite,” he says.
“When I saw a thick, bright red blip materialize on the screen of my MarCum LX-3, I immediately stopped ripping the spoon, and just started giving it little twitches. Even though this fish was belly to bottom, my MarCum still was able to separate its signal from the structure. The unit’s target separation was so precise, in fact, that I was able to guide the spoon right close to her jaws,” Geni recalls. Almost immediately, Tim felt a tap and set the hook.
Using wispy 4-pound test line, Geni expertly guided the fish to just beneath his hole, at which point the enormity of its size hit home. “When I saw her mammoth head swim by the bottom of the hole it was game on,” Geni recounted. Thanks to nearby friends Ron Ross and Ben Scherg, however, the freshwater monster soon found itself safely within Geni’s gloved grip.
After several quick photos and measurements, the fish was placed in a large cooler filled with water that had been set up in the event of catching a big fish. This allowed for the fish to revive and was released unharmed back into Last Mountain’s icy waters with a couple fans of its huge tail.
“These big fish are way too special to keep,” Geni emphasized. “I feel really good that she’s back and healthy in the water. Catching a World Record is awesome, but knowing it’s still alive down there—that’s so cool.”