On a sunny afternoon last November on the St. Lawrence River, Derek Balmas from Franklinville had an impressive fishing experience, catching three muskies. This accomplishment was particularly noteworthy because muskies are famously known as the “fish of 10,000 casts.” However, the day became even more remarkable when one of those muskies set a new world record for all tackle, catch and release, recognized by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA).
Balmas, who works as the first mate for Captain Bob Walters of Water Wolf Charters in Clayton, recently received official confirmation of his record-breaking achievement from the IGFA. The memorable event took place on the morning of November 8, 2022. Balmas and his friend, Mike Muehlemann from Liverpool, embarked on their fishing trip after their scheduled charter client canceled. They ventured out from Clayton, operating six lines using a combination of planer boards, downriggers, and flat lines.
Within an hour, they successfully landed their first muskie, measuring 48 inches. Shortly thereafter, they caught a 35-inch muskie. Then, at approximately 3 p.m. on that exceptionally beautiful day, Balmas recounted how their eight-inch green perch Swim Whizz lure got struck by something in 32 feet of water. This resulted in another impressive catch, solidifying the extraordinary nature of their fishing adventure.
“When it hit we didn’t know if we had weeds on the otter board or what was going on,” Balmas said. “So I ran to the back and went to grab for the rod, and of course the rod started doubling over.”
After engaging in a battle with the fish for approximately eight minutes, it swam beneath the boat and settled there, resembling a dropped anchor. After twenty minutes had passed, with around 50 feet of line remaining on the counter, Balmas caught his first glimpse of the fish.
“I’m about six foot, 200 pounds,” Balmas said. “It literally looked like me coming up from the depths. I mean it was massive.”
The men successfully scooped the fish into a net, carefully placed it on the deck, measured its dimensions, and took a few reference pictures before releasing it, all within a span of approximately two minutes. Despite having a cradle and a 100-pound scale available on the boat, they chose not to weigh the fish.
“We feel the longer you have them out of the water, the worse it is on the fish,” Balmas said. “We just got our pictures we needed for IGFA, then back down into the depths she went.”
According to IGFA regulations, the fish was measured at 135 centimeters (the standard measurement), equivalent to 53.15 inches from its nose to the inside fork of its tail. It’s important to note that these IGFA rules differ from the common tail-to-tip measurements, which would have added a few more inches to the overall length. The fish had a girth of 29 inches, as reported by Balmas.
Balmas estimates that his record-breaking muskie weighed approximately 60 pounds. It’s worth mentioning that the current New York State record for muskie is held by Arthur Lawton, who caught a massive 69-pound 15-ounce specimen in 1957, also on the St. Lawrence River. However, the length of Lawton’s fish was not recorded.