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16+ pound walleye caught by women

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Montana Outdoors: Fort Peck produces another huge walleye

Putting this fish on ice was far from easy


Montana Outdoors

Fort Peck produces another huge walleye | Putting this fish on ice was far from easy

Kate Bahr never got a chance to go along on the big ice fishing trip to Fourchette Bay on Fort Peck Reservoir in other years.

Her husband, Bob, and son would go, but working for the Post Office, Kate said December was simply too busy a time for her to leave her job.

But after 20 years helping deliver the mail, the Great Falls woman finally had enough seniority to go fishing. In late December, Kate and Bob joined the group of anglers who made the annual trek. The end result was a 16.2-pound walleye she pulled through the ice on Dec. 30, one of just a handful of walleyes ever caught in Montana that cracked the 16-pound barrier.

And while it's easy to say that landing any 16-pound walleye isn't an easy feat, this one posed some special problems.

"It took us a while," Kate said and laughed. "It was our fourth day there and it was really cold - 3 degrees, maybe. We had left the tip-ups out overnight in a snowstorm. We got about 4 inches of snow and a lot of blowing.

"I found our tip-up, but it was frozen in with a good two inches of ice. Bob chipped it free and I set the hook. I said, 'OK, we got 'im.' Then Bob chipped some more," she said.

"We could see the walleye swim past the hole under the ice and knew we had a fish, but we didn't know what it was or how big it was. Bob told me when I saw the fish's head, to pull it up. But when I did, it got stuck and Bob gaffed it," Kate said. "All that was sticking up above the ice was the gaff and part of the head of the fish."

What to do next? The hole began as a clean eight-inch-diameter opening. By now, it had narrowed to several inches less than that with hard ice all around the top.

At first, they were going to cut a hole next to the iced-in hole with the fish stuck in it. That didn't work. So as Kate held the gaff, Bob started to work with a spud bar - a long steel bar with a chisel on the end - to widen the iced-in hole.

"He chopped. And he chopped. And he chopped," Kate said. "It was quite a while before we got it chopped big enough, pulled and got the gills of the fish out. When we got the gills, it was like pulling a calf. We just squeezed it through."

The big walleye was weighed on several hand-held scales and measured an even 16.2 pounds. It was 33 inches long. It bit on a big live minnow.

With several more days to fish, the fat walleye was wrapped carefully for mounting and frozen. It was never weighed on an official certified scale.

That such a big walleye would come through the ice on Fort Peck at this time of year isn't a surprise.

Bozeman angler Dan Spence's state record walleye at 16.63 pounds was caught through the ice on Jan. 21, 2000, on Fort Peck. The world record saugeye caught by Myron Kibler at 15.66 pounds on Jan. 11, 1995, also came through the ice. And Gene Moore's co-world-record sauger at 8.805 pounds was caught on Dec. 12, 1994, from a boat near the dam as ice was forming in the bays there.

"I just fish for fun," Kate said. "I don't know about records and all that stuff. I just know it was big. I've been ice fishing since I was a young girl. I love ice fishing.

"Normally, we go for the day somewhere, and I make a pot of chili. But then you come home to your house," she said. "This time, I was up there for a week in a camper. The warmest I got it in the camper was 50 degrees. It was so cold. The guys were in a tent with two stoves.

"We caught other walleyes on the trip. Bob caught a 10-pound walleye on the first day. On the northern pike, it wasn't so good, but they caught big ones up there in other years," Kate said.

"It was a lot of fun. And you should tell people that I caught that fish on Bob's 60th birthday. It was his birthday present. Everything I've learned, I learned from my husband. He's a very good instructor.

Kate finally added, "The first thing I asked my husband when we got the fish up out of the hole was how much did it weigh? He said it best when he answered, 'Honey, you just caught the fish of a lifetime!'"



Sad part, not much of a challang when you can leave a tip up out over night and come back and see whats on the line the next morning, nothing more than a set line

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Well....if I read it correctly, she finds their tip-up that was left over night. So she gets credit for the catch?

Wonder if it is legal in Montana to leave an unattended line? Interesting, but a very nice specimen indeed!

Jim W

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Anyone see the walleye on The Weather Channel? The other day they had a I believe Michigan state record fish? They said the lake is usually froze over, but this year with the open water, big fish have consistently been caught by boat. I believe the lake was Muskegon? or Muskegon bay?

Any infos or pics would be neat to see...

I just found the link...


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great story and wow what a fish!

hm Fort Peck its got me dreaming of a fishing trip.

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Whose to say they were not in a sleeper house next to the tip up? It only says the tip was out all night. It does not say they weren't near by watching it.

I can see leaving it while getting some sleep. May have even had a pager alert so it may not have been unattended.

Nice fish.


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