UPDATE 3:30 PM 3-5-14 It’s official–WDFW put out a press declaring John Grubenhoff’s walleye the new Washington state record.
Washington fishery folks are trying their best to get me to breathe through my nose and tamper my excitement about what could be a record-wrecking 20-plus-pound walleye — the paperwork needs to be signed off by the regional fisheries manager before things proceed further in Oly, I’m told — but this morning we’re also learning more about who the lucky angler is and what he used to land that massive fish.
Here’s our contributor Jeff Holmes’ report!
Pasco’s John Grubenhoff became Washington’s pending new state record holder for walleye this past Friday, Feb. 28, when he landed a 20.32-pounder near Tri-Cities, exceeding the state’s previous record by 1.02 pounds.
The fish came from “22 feet of 37-degree water on a rocky, windswept shoreline,” said Grubenhoff, who is a well-known tournament angler. He took advantage of lengthening daylight to fish an undisclosed hole by himself after getting off work in Finley, quickly landing a 5- and then a 14-pounder prior to getting bit by the record fish.
The prespawn female struck hard, and early in the fight Grubenhoff knew he had hooked a monstrous walleye, so he cut the motor to avoid losing it against the current.
The fish bit a J-13 Rapala in silver and black, trolled upstream at .8 to .9 mph behind a 2-ounce bottomwalker. Grubenhoff had actually switched to this tactic immediately after catching that 14-pounder!
After a lengthy fight, Grubenhoff was then barely able to corral the fish in his medium-sized net. When it hit the floor of his boat, he knew it would potentially challenge the record. Since he had no scale or measuring device on board, he knew he had to call his son — fast.
The fish pegged the scale his son brought to the dock at 20 pounds, so Grubenhoff quickly contacted Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials to meet him at an approved scale in Richland. WDFW certified the record fish at 20.32 pounds, just hours after it was caught.
Grubenhoff’s catch confirms what many walleye anglers in the know have maintained for years, a fact tribal nets between McNary and Bonneville Dams have reportedly helped corroborate: There are walleye in the Columbia River that could challenge one of the toughest-to-beat world records.
(Editor’s note: Angler Ed Iman infamously released what might have been a 25-pounder in April 2007.)That current world record of 25 pounds was caught from Tennessee’s Old Hickory Reservoir in 1960, a fish once disqualified but since reinstated by the International Game Fishing Association, which keeps such records. While we’re almost 5 pounds away, the trend of big walleyes has been steady. For decades now, the Columbia in both Oregon and Washington has produced more fish over 15 pounds than anywhere in the world, and that trend continues.
For the April issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine, I invited Pasco’s Matt Nesbit to interview Grubenhoff as a guest writer for my “In Their Own Words” feature. Nesbit is Grubenhoff’s walleye protégé and a former interviewee in the magazine for his work as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sockeye salmon biologist working on restoring Redfish Lake in Idaho. He’s also been on the cover with a freaky-big Blue Mountains bull elk.
Nesbit and Grubenhoff will talk about catching the record fish, how beginners can best learn to catch walleye, and how to target these tasty and toothy fish when they become active again next month after their April spawn.
For more on catching Columbia walleye, see my article in the March issue of Northwest Sportsman featuring guide and former state-record holder Kimo Gabriel’s tips and more. We’ll also be following up with Kimo in an upcoming article on catching eater-sized fish.