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CASPER - A new state record was set Jan. 7 when Casper angler Tom Durst reeled in a 7.5 pound, 26.5 inch sauger from Boysen Reservoir, breaking the old record that has stood since 1999. The old record, a sauger weighing in at 7.4 pounds and measuring 26.2 inches long, was also caught at Boysen by Brad Berg of Riverton March 14, 1999.
"I wasnt expecting to catch a state record sauger," Durst said. "I always figured if I caught a state record it would probably be a carp or sucker."
He caught the fish at a depth of about 13 feet, using a live minnow on a tip-up. He reported cold, cloudy conditions with no wind at the time of the catch.
"It was really cold, about 8 degrees above zero," Durst said.
Not having any luck at their first location, Durst and his fishing buddy, Bruce Parker, also of Casper, decided to move to a different spot on the lake. After struggling with a malfunctioning auger, it was about 9:30 a.m. when they finally got set up and began fishing. They were soon catching crappie and even a burbot.
When Durst later went to check one of his tip-ups he was surprised to feel resistance, as the flag had not been set off. He pulled the line to check it and was surprised when he landed the large sauger. Durst struggles with an eye condition that makes his eyes water in cold weather, which might explain why he first thought the fish was a walleye. Parker also thought the fish was a walleye and pestered Durst to release it because it was too big to eat. "But I kept it anyway, it was a nice fish," Durst said.
After another angler identified the fish as a sauger, Durst knew it could possibly be a record. So they took the fish into Shoshone to have it weighed. The following day he took the fish to the Casper Game and Fish office to get a positive identification.
Durst, who recently retired from the Bureau of Land Management, is pleased that his fish broke the old record and he plans to have it mounted. "But even if it wasnt a state record, this fish is a trophy anyway. Its a once-in-a-lifetime catch," he said.
Sauger are a member of the perch family and closely resemble walleye. The species, which is native to the Missouri River drainage, is distinguished from walleye by the absence of a white tip on the lower tail fin. In Wyoming, sauger are found in the Bighorn-Wind, Tongue and Powder River drainages. Sauger and walleye are both found in Boysen Reservoir, although walleye are more abundant and grow larger.
"Sauger distribution has declined across their native range and they are no longer found in the North Platte River drainage in Wyoming," said Joe Deromedi, fisheries biologist for Boysen Reservoir. Concerns over declining sauger numbers and distribution prompted the Game and Fish and the University of Wyoming to conduct several studies over the past several years.
"Though much has been learned from this research, the Game and Fish is still very concerned about the long-term future for this species in Wyoming," Deromedi said.
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