Illinois hunting and fishing

Jim Zimmerman and his 15.08-pounds record walleye. Photo courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Illinois walleye record broken for second time this year; record catch certified

March 13, 2012 at 07:54 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — A fisherman named Fred Goselin held the record for the largest walleye ever caught in Illinois for more than a half century before 15-year-old Nick Tassoni caught a bigger one in January.

Now, even before spring break, Nick has lost the record.

On Sunday, a fisherman from Wisconsin named Jim Zimmerman ventured about 20 miles south of the state line on the Pecatonica River and caught a walleye that tipped the scales at 15.08 pounds.

The record was verified Monday afternoon by a regional fisheries biologist with the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Zimmerman, who plans to mount the fish and put it on the wall of his home with some other really big fish, said even before he pulled the fish into his boat he pretty much knew he had a record holder on his hands.

“My net man got a better look at it than I did and he said, ‘It’s a giant and it’s a record’ before we even had it in the net,” said Zimmerman, 52.

Zimmerman quickly called Dan Palmer, a tournament organizer from the Rockford area, and asked how he could certify the catch as a record Palmer told him to call the conservation police in the area. Palmer said that led the parties to Blackhawk Meats in South Beloit, Ill., where all the parties saw that the fish, apparently loaded with mature eggs, was weighed.

Nick on Jan. 7 had broken a record that had stood since 1961. The teenager was philosophical about losing the record he set on the same river.

“And the record falls…. AGAIN,” according to a note on a fishing website that Palmer said the freshman at Rockford Auburn High School posted shortly learning about Zimmerman’s catch. “He didn’t take my record away,” he wrote. “He just added to his.”

Zimmerman said he appreciated the message from the teen, whose fish weighed in at 14 pounds, 12 ounces. He also said that he didn’t feel a bit bad about grabbing the record for himself.

“I’m out here every single day, I don’t miss a beat,” said the retired ironworker.

Palmer, in fact, said he doesn’t know of anyone who fishes more than Zimmerman. He said Zimmerman puts in a dozen hours a day, including Monday, when he pulled his boat up to Zimmerman and handed him his cellphone to talk about his record.

Zimmerman, Palmer and the regional fisheries biologist who verified the record said this record is made to be broken, too. Palmer said there have been walleye caught in Pecatonica that were a half-inch longer than the 31.5 inch walleye Zimmerman reeled in. They were just caught at a different time of year when walleye aren’t loaded with mature eggs like the one Zimmerman caught.

“This was a spectacular fish, (but) there’s bigger fish than that out there,” said Dan Sallee of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was this week,” Palmer said of the possibility of another record breaking walleye being pulled from the Pecatonica. And then, sounding like the fisherman he is, he added, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was my next cast.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.