BISMARCK — Tom Volk caught a lunker walleye on Easter Sunday, April 21, a 16-pound, 9-ounce fish that appeared to be a new state record for North Dakota.
A few weeks later, it's been ruled he's not the state record holder.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department announced Monday, May 13, the walleye won't be recognized as the state record as department officials ruled the fish was "foul-hooked."
That means the fish was ruled to be hooked behind the gill plates, North Dakota Chief Game Warden Bob Timian said. To qualify as a state record, a fish must be harvested in accordance with rules for recreational fishing, according to the Game and Fish Department.
"That led to the conclusion that it was foul-hooked so we couldn't recognize it as a state record," Timian said.
Timian added there is no evidence that Volk intentionally foul-hooked the fish.
Volk, from Lincoln, N.D., said he was "disappointed" in the decision and is confident the fish was hooked in the mouth. To back his argument, Volk said there was a hole in the upper jaw of the fish, soft tissue damage in the mouth of the fish and string burn on the cheek. He added he couldn't find any damage on the body of the fish.
"I believe 100 percent it was hooked in the mouth," Volk said. "It is inconclusive at best."
Volk said he was around 90 feet away from the walleye when a friend netted the lunker on the Heart River. The fish was initially certified by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in a news release Monday, April 22. Timian said that release was verifying the weight of the fish.
Bismarck's Neal Leier remains the state record holder for the largest walleye, landing a 15-pound, 13-ounce fish on May 18, 2018, on the Missouri River.
Volk said he's happy the Game and Fish Department investigated his big catch, but doesn't agree with its findings. He added he likely won't challenge the decision.
"The last thing I want is a controversial record," Volk said. "With all this stuff going around, it's already controversial and I don't want that."