By Nick Simonson
With the catch of a 32.5-inch, 15-pound, 13-ounce walleye on the morning of Friday, May 18, 2018 from the Missouri River by Neal Leier of Bismarck, N.D., the previous state record walleye which stood since 1959 has fallen, but according to the angler who caught the fish, it was an outing that almost didn’t happen.
“It was an exciting morning; it was raining so hard I was thinking we weren’t going to go, but my brother Leon convinced me,” said Neal Leier, whose fish was weighed on two separate scales and verified by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department about an hour after the catch.
Despite the cold, rainy conditions, Neal Leier joined his brother on the Missouri River on the south end of Bismarck to pre-fish for the upcoming weekend’s Reel and Rec tournament and within a few moments, the anglers had walleyes showing up on sonar in about 11 feet of water.
“My brother told me he was graphing fish, so I grabbed a rod and started,” said Neal Leier, explaining how the 3/8-ounce parrot-hued jig dressed with a Keitech plastic ended up being the lucky lure, “I set the hook and it was heavy, at first I didn’t think it was that big, but when we saw it, my brother said ‘that looks like it could go for the state record,’” he recounted, adding that the fish was landed on eight-pound test Spiderwire line.
After boating the fish, the brothers were about to take off to another spot, when Leon Leier’s friend Damian Huettl called and advised them to get the potential record weighed before it shed any weight from the stress of being caught and kept in the boat. They took the fish to the Pony Express Conoco in Bismarck to get an initial weight.
Justin Nagel, General Manager of the Pony Express was on hand for the weighing of the fish and was awestruck by the size of the walleye, “it was big,” he said, “when they get that big they look a lot different than normal, almost ‘mutanty,’” he added.
Realizing the weight on the scale at the Pony Express would put the fish in record territory, Neal Leier explained that he visited the North Dakota Game & Fish Department and then a local butcher shop for a second weighing. The department issued a confirmatory press release at 11:50 a.m. announcing that Neal Leier had officially caught the new state record walleye weighing 15-pounds 13-ounces, besting the previous record caught on Wood Lake by Blair Chapman of Minnewaukan, N.D. in 1959 by one ounce.
“I had just Googled the previous state record a couple weeks ago when my other brother [Glenn Leier of Bismarck] caught a 15-pound, 1-ounce walleye,” Neal Leier stated, adding that his previous personal best was a 24-inch walleye, which he had not weighed.
(Featured Photo: Neal Leier of Bismarck, N.D. with his record-setting 15-pound, 13-ounce walleye from the Missouri River. Photo Submitted By Leon Leier.)