25-pounder reinstated as the walleye of walleyes

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2010 - 7:27 PM

Mary Harper displayed the 25-pound, 41-inch walleye caught by her husband, Mabry, in 1960 in Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake.

At a whopping 25 pounds, the pot-bellied, 41-inch-long walleye looks as though it belongs in a freak show. Could one really grow that big?

Yes, says the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis., which has reinstated the monster as a world record.

As with many old records, this one came with controversy. The whopper was caught in 1960 in Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee by Mabry Harper. In 1996, however, the hall of fame removed it from its records, based on a report that claimed the walleye couldn't have measured as long as claimed. "The thrust of this report was a comparison of the length of his fish to an assumed size of Harper's hands," the hall of fame reported.

But officials said the actual size of Harper's hands was unknown. The hall decided to do an internal review of its 3,000 world records over the past several years and investigated the Harper walleye. It said a Tennessee historical society presented key evidence. "Once we delved through this new documentation, we realized it not only greatly supported the Harper walleye's validity, but it also disproved the theory which led to the walleye's removal in 1996," the hall said.

Evidence included a photo of the walleye's head with a ruler atop it and a 1960 affidavit from a Tennessee game warden attesting that he had checked the scale on which the walleye was weighed and measured it himself.

Last week, the hall of fame reinstated the walleye as the all-tackle world record. The International Game Fish Association also lists it as their all-tackle world record.

The 25-pound behemoth is 7 1/2 pounds heavier than Minnesota's record walleye, a 17 1/2-pound walleye caught in 1979 in the Seagull River in northeastern Minnesota.

Doug Smith • dsmith@startribune.com

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