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Illinois fishing: Walleye record, extended tale

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Nick Tassoni caught a walleye so big on Saturday it stretched across generations and broke the longest-standing gamefish record in Illinois.

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Tassoni, a 15-year-old freshman at Rockford Auburn, boated his 14-pound, 12-ounce walleye from the Pecatonica River while fishing with his dad Dave in Winnebago County between the Macktown and Two Rivers forest preserves.

They started fishing before sunrise around 5:30 a.m. with little luck. So, Tassoni took a noon lunch and nap. When he awoke, he set up a line to troll. Within seconds, he hooked something.

``He struggled with him a bit and he really couldn't move the fish,'' Dave said. ``He jacked with him a bit. I finally put the motor in reverse and we went after this fish because he couldn't move her.''

Because of the difficulty, they assumed it was a snagged carp or buffalo. They had caught a number of them on Saturday.

``But I knew it was a walleye when it got within 20 feet of the boat and it started shaking its head,'' Nick said. ``We got it in the boat. My dad doesn't even remember netting it.''

On their Berkley digital scale, it came to 14.9 pounds. That would smash the Illinois record set in 1961 when Fred Goselin caught a 14-pound walleye from the Kankakee River. For a few seconds, they thought about keeping on fishing, then realized they need to make the long ride back to Two Rivers.

En route, Dave called conservation police officer Brian Alt to ask what to do. Alt went online and printed out the necessary paperwork. The Tassoni's squeezed the fish into a red Coleman cooler filled with river water.

``I give the father a lot of credit,'' Alt said. ``He is one of those anglers who keeps up on what the state records are. He knew right away.''

The Tassoni's got off the water, then met Alt about 2:15 p.m. for the official weighing at Pinnon's in Rockford. The famous meat market had its usual Saturday crowd lined up. The fish caused so much hubbub the scale had to be as moved to a back room.

``I was blown away,'' said Brian Overbey, who weighed it. ``My family had a cabin in Minnesota for years and we never saw anything that prehistoric. All you heard in the store was gasps and ahs. When I put it up on the scale and saw the actual weight, that is when I was really shocked.''

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The female walleye, 31 inches long with a girth of 20 1/4 inches, settled in at weight of 14.75 pounds.

Regional fisheries biologist Dan Sallee, who verified the fish Sunday, said it was still green and, in a couple months nearer the spawn, would have easily topped 15 pounds.

``Just a beautiful fish,'' Sallee said. ``It is absolutely gorgeous. A lot of times you get those big old fish and they get gnarly looking. This was a beautiful fish.''

And it was a fish with family ties.

The lure, a Rapala firetiger No. 7 Minnow Rap, Tassoni had bought. The rod was a Carolina Lizard Dragger by Falcon his dad had bought at a garage sale. The reel, an old Ambassador 5000, came from his late paternal grandfather Jerry. The line, Trilene 10-pound Big Game, came from a box of fishing stuff of his late maternal great-grandfather Walter Fox and was gifted from his uncle Tony Thoren. Fox founded the walleye club in Rockford.

``I didn't think about that when I was using it,'' Tassoni said.

Saturday night Nick and Dave struggled to keep the fish alive. They even went to a neighbor's for a 200-gallon horse trough, then drove back to the Pec and bucketed it full of river water. During the night, they took turns trying to keep the fish alive in the tank, including using a sort of muskie sling, but it died early Sunday. It will be mounted.

What I most loved was something Dave said, ``It would not surprise if they are in there bigger.''

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TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/44924

Nick Tassoni will discuss his Illinois-record walleye, caught on Jan. 7 from the Pecatonica River, at 3 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Chicago Outdoor Sportsmen Show in Rosemont.... Read More

It looks like Illinois will have another state record walleye.... Read More

It seems just rewards for a river rat like Jim Zimmerman to catch the Illinois-record walleye, the state's first 15-pounder.... Read More

13 Comments

Thinking I had fish of the week with the brown trout caught on the Chicago river , I feel like the guy who got robbed out of that grand slam on top of the center field fence . A H H H H H ! ! ! ! ! ........Congratulations young man , my hat is off to you .....Jeff Nolan , Bridgeportbass

Ultimate fish! This is my favorite fish and finally my congrats to you...


most excellent

Awesome!! Just AWESOME!!! FOTY 2012!! Congratz!

Great trophy, congrats to the boy!!!

P.S. - Kind of sad to see a warrior like that on a meat marker scales, though! Would have looked much better back in its habitat! ;)

I go with catch and release but that's a once in a life time catch it needs to be seen!

James, thank-you for saying what needed to be said. C&R is a good thing, but it is not the end all, be all. This is a fish that needed to be verified, and that was far more important than releasing it. Look at the excitement it put into fishing. In long run, that matters far more.

I'm as big a C& R guy as any one, I would have got it verified. It's a once in a lifetime deal.

As long as it's legal, nothing wrong with some selective harvest and eating some fish either from time to time if the population can stand it.

Atruly Awsome fish that may stand for sometime CONGRATS!!!!!! However, was this fish caught this year or last? Look at the photos. Something we need to rember with no brainer cramers

TELL YOUR STORY, WRITE A BOOK HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN.TAKE ADVANTAGE AND MAKE SOME DOUGH FROM IT

Congrats on your spectacular catch and day out with your dad!

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on January 9, 2012 9:13 PM.

Illinois fishing: Walleye record was the previous entry in this blog.

Midwest Fishing Report: Winter comes in is the next entry in this blog.

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