River monster caught in Pa. claims state-record status: Photo – PennLive
Richard Nicholson of Connellsville displays the monster walleye he caught in the Youghiogheny River in southwestern Pennsylvania that set the state record for its species. (Submitted photo)
A giant walleye pulled from the Youghiogheny River in Fayette County on October 28 has taken over as the state-record fish for its species.
The 18-pound 1-ounce, 34-inch-long fish went for a creek chub fished by Richard Nicholson of Connellsville.
It replaces a 17-pound 9-ounce walleye that held the record since 1980, when Mike Holly of Bradford pulled it from the Allegheny Reservoir in Warren County, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Nicholson hooked into the monster while fishing with his son, Richard Nicholson Jr. in a spot of the river they had fished many times previously. He was targeting walleye with a spinning reel equipped with 6-pound test and a live creek chub attached to a number two hook as bait, weighted down with bb-size split shot and a slip sinker.
“We were fishing the bottom along the edge of a sandbar, just having a nice time being on the river,” he recalled. “Conditions were good, and we were catching fish right away. Before we knew it, we landed a big sauger and then a 27-inch walleye that weighed about 9 pounds. It turned out to be only the start of the best day ever.”
At about 6:45 p.m. the junior Nicholson yelled to alert his father that something was tugging hard on his fishing rod, which was propped on the bank for still-fishing.
“I looked over and the rod had really taken a bend, so I grabbed it and just started reeling,” said Nicholson. “I knew right away it was something big, and I thought maybe it was a musky.
“It fought me for about 25 minutes before I got it up on the bank and my son got it in the net, and we could see it was a walleye. It was so big that it actually broke the net.”
Larger than any previous catches that evening, the fish measured 34 inches, with a girth of 21.5 inches.
Nicholson, who describes himself as a “meat eater,” said he was thinking more about fish filets than the record books when he put the large walleye into a five-gallon bucket with some water in an attempt to keep it alive until he could get it home.
The fish survived the short drive to his home, where Nicholson dropped it into a spring-fed livewell normally used to keep minnows, or to hold fish overnight after a late night of fishing, before cleaning them the next morning.
“We had the fish home when my son looked up the state record, and said, ‘Dad, we better get this thing weighed,’” recalled Nicholson.
By the next morning, the walleye had died, and Nicholson took it to a nearby grocery store where he had it weighed on a certified scale. Tipping the scales at 18 pounds, 1 ounce, Nicholson’s fish appeared to beat the 41-year-old record held by angler Mike Holly.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recognizes state-record fish only by weight and each new record-holder must beat the existing record by at least 2 ounces.
Later that day, Waterways Conservation Officer Scott Opfer met Nicholson at the angler’s residence in Connellsville where a visual inspection of the fish was conducted, verifying the species, weight and measurements. Nicholson completed an official Pennsylvania State Record Fish Application and submitted it to the commission for review.
Now verified by the commission as the state record, Nicholson’s catch has been commemorated with an Angler Award for Trophy Fish certificate and listing on the commission’s website listing of state-record fish.
“It’s really unbelievable that with so much big water all across this state, including the big rivers and Lake Erie, that this fish was right here in the Yough,” said Nicholson. “There’s a lot of pride in that, and I’d bet there are a lot more records in that river if people would fish it harder.
“Like I said before, I like to eat fish, so I wasn’t after the record, but if this inspires somebody else to get out there and fish, then it’s all worth it to me. We need more people out there fishing. That’s what it’s all about.”
Nicholson says he will keep the fish frozen until a taxidermist can produce a molded replica of his record catch, and that that he intends to share the meat with friends and family.
Contact Marcus Schneck at email@example.com.
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