After standing for more than 20 years, the South Dakota state hook-and-line walleye record has fallen for the second time in the past four weeks. The most recent state-record fish, a 17-pound, 13.92-ounce beast, was caught on Nov. 11 by Keith Pazour of Pierre on Lake Oahe.
The new state-record fish has a couple of things in common with the 16-pound, 8-ounce walleye caught by Bismarck angler Aaron Schuck on Oct. 28. Schuck’s fish spent just over two weeks at the top of South Dakota’s record book after it unseated the 16-pound, 2-ounce fish that held the state record since it was caught from the tailwaters below the Ft. Randall Dam near Pickstown by the late Georgine Chytka in 2002.
To start, like Schuck, Pazour caught his fish from Lake Oahe, the massive reservoir north of Pierre created by the construction of the Oahe Dam on the Missouri River, which began operating in the 1960s. Boats have been crawling over parts of the reservoir this fall to take advantage of a great fall walleye bite.
According to Pazour, the Pierre angler landed his walleye after being on Lake Oahe for a short time on Saturday, Nov. 11. He immediately knew he had a big fish, but initially he wasn’t sure if he had hooked a northern pike, catfish, or really big walleye. It wasn’t until after a 10-minute battle to land the fish that Pazour knew he had a walleye.
And then once Pazour put the fish on his hand-scale in the boat and saw a number registering close to 18 pounds, he understood that he had a special, big walleye on his hands.
Pazour immediately made his way back to the boat launch, called a conservation officer with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to find the nearest certified scale, and then drove to the South Whitlock Resort near Gettysburg to weigh the fish. In addition to weighing nearly 18 pounds, Pazour’s walleye measured 33 inches in length and featured a 22-inch girth.
Not surprisingly, the fish is headed for the wall.
“(My wife) said no more fish mounts unless it’s a record,” Pazour wrote on his Facebook page. “Jokes on her!!”
In addition to where he caught it, Pazour’s fish shares with the previous record the distinction of being caught on the same kind of lure, a Walleye Nation Creations Reaper. That connection is probably not an accident, explains Todd Heitkamp, owner of Dakota Bait and Tackle in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“These Lake Oahe walleyes are feeding on some big shad, I think that the Walleye Nation Creation Reapers are the crankbait that has the closest profile to that bait,” Heitkamp said. “There are other larger stickbaits that are working as well, like Bandits and Deep Hit Sticks, but the Reapers have been the best at catching these big female walleyes.”
Heitkamp says that Lake Oahe has been producing some big walleyes this fall, noting that an employee caught a 15-pound, 10-ounce fish from the reservoir last weekend on, you guessed it, the same brand of lure.
“The size of fish that they are catching on Oahe this fall is a sign that there is an abundance of baitfish in the reservoir right now. There is a lot of food out there, and that’s a good thing,” Heitkamp said. “And the kind of bite that we are having is really not all that unusual for this time of the year, when the fish kind of have the feedbags on to bulk up in preparation for the winter.”
Anglers in South Dakota may need a winter season to get over the whirlwind of records from this fall. After spending 21 years as a seemingly untouchable record, to see the South Dakota state hook-and-line walleye record fall twice in 15 days is quite remarkable. Which begs the question: When will a bigger fish take over the top spot?
“I firmly believe that there are bigger walleye out there, Heitkamp says, “and I think that the record will be broken again within the next year.”
Odds are, it’ll happen on Oahe, and maybe a Walleye Nation Creations Reaper will be the lure to get it done.