Ohio's New Record Walleye
How To Catch Or How Not To Catch a Record Walleye
By Captain Andy Emrisko           

We all have had thoughts of catching a world record fish, or breaking some sort of record.  To do this requires hours and hours of planning.  Knowing the exact place to fish, and being there at the right time of the year with the right bait in the right presentation is of the utmost importance.  Of course we will have to have the proper equipment and study the water as to proper depth, amount of baitfish, and, most importantly, the right temperature.  Once we have eliminated all the variables, we stand a good chance of catching that elusive record.  Or do we??   

I would like to tell you about all the things we didn’t do last November while we still managed to land the Ohio State record walleye.  First off, the man that caught the fish, Tom “Blacky” Haberman and I had made plans to go rabbit hunting. Because of the unseasonably warm weather, we opted to give the dogs a break and go fishing (first right move).  Since it was a spur of the moment choice, finding enough people to fill the boat was not an easy task, so instead of starting early in the day we didn’t get out in the water until after mid-day (worst time of the day to fish, right?)   

I called on the radio from the dock to see if anyone was out perch fishing (yes, perch fishing, we didn’t go walleye fishing).  Sure enough, my pal “Stan the Man” was at the 72nd St. lighthouse on Cleveland’s east side.  He said he was picking up some really nice jumbos.  As we motored out of the marina and approached him I decided to go out a couple miles further into water of about 45 feet (glad I didn’t listen to Stan).  Once we anchored the boat, the fish finder showed a lot of larger “hooks”.   An Ole Walleye hunter aboard, Dick Klimczak, said, “I have a feeling this is gonna be a walleye day, Andy.” (first time he was ever right).   

We immediately started catching some nice yellow perch, and things were going pretty good.  I hooked onto something more than a perch, and needed the net.  The large net wasn’t on board, because I had stopped fishing for walleye earlier in the year, and had taken most of that equipment off the boat.  There was a small net I used for smallmouth bass, which had a diameter of about 12 inches, and a depth of about 18 inches, but it was tangled in the anchor light.  The fish I hooked turned out to be an 8 pound burbot (also know as Lawyers, or Ling Cod).   While I played the fish, the other guy climbed on the hardtop, untangled the net and we used it to land the fish.  At this time we had no idea of how important that burbot was to our catching the state record (another wrong that became a right).  

A minute later, Blacky had a large fish that was taking a drag. “Probably a large sheephead, tighten the drag” I said. (glad he didn’t listen).  I had given him a rod and reel for his birthday five years previous, a nice St. Croix ultra light rod spooled with 6 pound test Berkley line (perfect set up for large walleye, wouldn’t you say?).  When the fish finally reached the surface, I thought my boat was sinking for all the commotion from the port side.  I hadn’t heard such language since the Army.   

The first attempt at netting the fish failed, and the fish took off a-running.   But the #4 long shank Eagle Claw hook held its own, and Blacky expertly brought the fish back for a second chance.  The net allowed the head and about 3 inches of the body in, and when Dick simultaneously grabbed the tail, it was boated.  Had I not caught the Burbot earlier, we probably would not have had time to untangle the net before the fish would have been gone (another wrong that went right).  

Once everyone settled down, the fish was measured at 33 inches long, 21.5 inches girth.  Using a 10 lb. downrigger weight to zero the scale, it weighed in right around 15.5 pounds.  Since in my mind the Ohio record fish was 15.95 pounds but 36 inches long,  I felt that the fish had plenty of girth.  Because it was so short, I just thought the scale was off, or the rocking boat in the waves might have affected a true weight.  We decided to fish a couple more hours (pretty stupid huh?) and got our fill of perch and headed in.  Once on shore, I took the fish to a certified scale and about passed out!  The fish weighed 16.29 pounds (I also learned that the old record was also 33 inches long).  I then contacted several people to tell them about the good news, and a buddy of mine suggested that we get a second weighing.  I took the fish to be weighed at a neighborhood supermarket.  When I lifted the fish up to the scale, a 4 inch goby popped out of its mouth!  This little incident cost .10 pounds off the original weight of the fish.

The fish has since been certified as a new Ohio State Record Walleye at 16.19 pounds.  

Well, that’s the story on how to catch -or how not to catch- a record.  There were so many things that could have gone wrong but didn’t, showing that no matter how you plan, if the Man up there doesn’t smile down on you now and then, you ain’t got a chance!  Good luck, and Good Fishin’!