Someone reeled in a 131-pound paddlefish – and it's officially been declared the heaviest fish ever caught in North Dakota.
The lucky fisherman – Grant Werkmeister of Williston – snagged it near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers on May 7, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said.
Werkmeister described the catch like "hooking a log that wants you to go with it," the Forum reports.
The previous North Dakota record was 130 pounds, caught in 2010. While the largest paddlefish on record was speared in Lake Okoboji, Iowa in 1916, at 198 pounds, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
What are paddlefish?
There are two species of paddlefish – one is found in China and the other is found in 22 states throughout the Missouri and Mississippi river basins, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Paddlefish populations are on the decline mainly due to habitat loss and overharvest, says the Minnesota DNR, but there are small populations in the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, Lake St. Croix, and Lake Pepin.
In North Dakota, the Paddlefish season ends in May after the 1,000 cap is reached, Aaron Slominski, a Fisheries Biologist at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, told BringMeTheNews. This is to prevent Paddlefish from being overharvested.
Many Minnesotans make their way to that part of North Dakota to angle for paddlefish, Andy Anderson – owner of the local Scenic Sports store – told BringMeTheNews.
Slominski also told BringMeTheNews that, to be a part of the "Whopper Club," a paddlefish has to come in at 70 pounds or more. Although big catches are not that uncommon because "several over 100 pounds get snagged every year," he said.
Paddlefish can get to be so big because they live to be so old – sometimes more than 60 years, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said. Werkmeister's fish was around 50 years old, according to Anderson.
Werkmeister, age 28, has gone paddlefishing in northwest North Dakota every year for the last 20 years, says the Forum.
"I've been doing it all my life, never expected to pull something like that out of the water," Werkmeister told KUMV.
The local sporting good store has throwback photos of him catching fish as kid: