There’s a new world-record muskie on the books. Earlier this year, the International Game Fish Association certified Derek Balmas’ 53.15-inch muskie as the new all-tackle length record for the species. Balmas caught and released the trophy muskie while fishing the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York on Nov. 8.
A fishing guide on the St. Lawrence, Balmas was supposed to be leading a trip for Water Wolf Charters that day, but his client cancelled. He decided to go fishing anyways and called up his friend Mike Muehelemann, who’d never caught a muskie before.
After setting out from the ramp in Clayton that afternoon, the two put out six lines and started trolling. They found fish soon enough, landing a 48-inch muskie and a 35-incher within the first couple hours. Then, around 3 p.m., something hammered one of their eight-inch diving plugs.
“When it hit, we didn’t know if we had weeds on the board or what was going on,” Balmas told New York Upstate. “So I ran to the back and went to grab for the rod, and of course the rod started doubling over.”
The big muskie stayed deep for most of the battle. After roughly 30 minutes, Balmas netted the fish and hauled it into the boat. The two anglers photographed the fish, took a series of measurements, and released it. They decided not to weigh the muskie but estimated its weight around 60 pounds.
“We feel the longer you have them out of the water, the worse it is on the fish,” Balmas explained. “We just got our pictures we needed for IGFA, then back down into the depths she went.”
The IGFA certified Balmas’ word-record muskie in April, but news of the record began circulating widely this weekend. His fish edges out the previous catch-and-release record (which was also pulled from the St. Lawrence River) by less than inch.
To be fair, Balmas’ record muskie is the longest to be certified by the IGFA, but it’s far from the longest muskie that’s ever been caught and released. Last March, an angler in West Virginia set a new state record with a muskie that measured over 55 inches. And the Minnesota catch-and-release record, which was also caught last November, measured more than 58 inches long.
Balmas’ fish also falls short of the IGFA all-tackle weight record. Weighing 67 pounds, 8 ounces, that muskie was caught from a lake in Wisconsin in 1949. It measured 60.25 inches long.