A Lincoln man is "absolutely disappointed" after the North Dakota Game and Fish Department declined to recognize his walleye as a new state record.
Tom Volk caught a 16-pound, 9-ounce walleye April 21 from the shore of the Heart River in Mandan. Game and Fish investigators on Monday determined his walleye "was foul-hooked and, therefore, cannot be recognized as a state record."
North Dakota Chief Game Warden Bob Timian said eyewitnesses' statements and other information contributed to the finding.
By rule, a foul-hooked fish is one hooked behind its gill plates, such as in the tail, back or belly. Timian also said the fish was not intentionally snagged, which is illegal but for paddlefishing. "A third party" netted and unhooked Volk's fish, he added.
Volk disputes the department's "unfortunate" finding and has consulted his attorney "for an appeal process of some sort," but can find nothing in administrative code, rules or law to appeal the conclusion by Game and Fish.
He maintains the fish was caught by the mouth and cited evidence for his side.
"There's a hole in the mouth of the fish," Volk said. "There's string burn on the side of the fish's cheek. There is no indication of any damage to the body of the fish."
He said he's disappointed from the official finding and added he hopes for witness statements to come forward to bolster his claim.
Timian said the state record book is not in law and is kept at the department's discretion. Private entities usually track records.
"We wouldn't even have to keep a record book, quite frankly," Timian said.
Despite his disappointment, Volk said he still plans to send the fish to a taxidermist and celebrate "the fact that I caught the official unofficial state record walleye in North Dakota."
Timian said Volk's fish should have been returned, but Game and Fish won't contest his keeping it.
North Dakota's state record walleye stands as a 15-pound, 13-ounce fish caught by Neal Leier, of Bismarck, in May 2018 on the Missouri River near the Fox Island boat ramp.