21 years later, South Dakota’s state record walleye nearly slipped through the cracks

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POLLOCK, S.D. — When Aaron Schuck reeled in a 16.8-pound massive walleye on Saturday morning, Oct. 28 on Lake Oahe, the thought of the fish being a state record never slipped his mind.

Little did he know the fish he hauled in that morning along the Missouri River would become the largest walleye ever caught in South Dakota and break a state record that’s stood since 2002.

The series of events that unfolded after he and his fishing partner, Jesse Schumaker, managed to land the fish and place it in their live well nearly resulted in Schuck taking the trophy fish to a taxidermist for it to be mounted before weighing it on a certified scale, as required by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks’ rules for record-breaking fish.

“We weighed it when we got back to the ramp, and his scale was saying 15 1/2 pounds. So we didn’t really think anything of it. We got to Selby (a nearby small town) and asked if they had a scale, and they did not and told us they wouldn’t know where to even go to do that,” Schuck said during a podcast discussion. “So then we go home to Bismarck.”

It wasn’t until Schuck trekked back home to Bismarck, North Dakota following the historic catch that he realized he may have reeled in a South Dakota record-size walleye. After returning to Bismarck, Schuck reweighed the fish on his scale in a more controlled environment away from a boat, which registered a weight of 16.5 pounds.

“There I sit with the state record on my fish cleaning table, and nobody is going to know about it. Now I don’t know where to go. The fish stayed in my fridge all day Sunday,” Schuck said. “It was just eating at me that this fish may be the state record, and I don’t know where to take this.”

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When he came to the realization he may be in possession of a state record walleye, Schuck stored the fish in his fridge and spent his past Sunday thinking of ways he could get the fish weighed in an official certified scale.

At last, he discovered an establishment in Pollock, South Dakota, that had a certified scale for Schuck to weigh his massive fish.

“I got up Monday morning and told myself, if this doesn’t weigh at least 16 pounds again, I am just going to take it to the taxidermist,” Schuck said, noting the weight of the fish on Monday morning registered as 16.4 pounds. “I took off and weighed it in.”

The scale read 16 pounds and 5 ounces, about 3 ounces heavier than the previous state record walleye.

Shortly after weighing the fish, an official with the state’s GF&P also weighed the fish on their scale and concluded the actual weight of the fish was 16.8 pounds.

The events that unfolded before Schuck managed to have the fish weighed on a certified scale and officially become the new record holder had a group of South Dakota anglers who invited Schuck on an episode of their podcast in total shock.

“I don’t think you can make up a better story than yours. That just takes the cake. I mean the lady who caught the last state record walleye was fishing off the shore with a crappie rig,” said Curt Underhill, owner of The Fishing Crew.

The Fishing Crew, a Pierre-based fishing company, hosted a podcast on Wednesday with Schuck and his fishing guide, along with the owner of the fishing lure manufacturing business that produced the lure Schuck used to catch the state record walleye.

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Schuck’s wild story behind his historic fish drew parallels to the previous state walleye record-holder, Georgine Chytka, a Lake Andes woman.

When the late Chytka reeled in a massive 16.2-pound walleye from the shoreline while fishing the Missouri River near Fort Randall Dam, she too wasn’t thinking the fish she hauled in was a state record.

According to Underhill, Chytka initially intended to have the walleye cleaned and gutted for large walleye filets that would eventually be cooked.

“She was going to clean the thing, similar to you Aaron. That is the best part of this,” Underhill said.

Another element to Schuck’s historic catch was him losing the lure that he used to land the 16.8-pound walleye.

Considering Schuck caught the walleye only 20 minutes into he and Schumaker’s fish near the Mobridge area, they kept fishing. Rather than taking the lure he used to reel in the record walleye, Schuck kept it on his line and eventually lost it on another bite shortly after catching the massive walleye.

After spending about an hour recounting the events that led to Schuck’s state record fish, Underhill dubbed it, “The greatest fishing story” he’s ever heard.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>