BUFFALO — It took Matthew Deichsel eight hours and 120 dives, but finally he bagged the fish he wanted. The Colorado Springs native shot and claimed a 17.7-pound walleye spearfishing in Lake DeSmet.
The catch shattered the old world record — a 13.3-pound walleye caught in Canada as recorded by the International Underwater Spearfishing Association, which governs spearfish catches worldwide.
Deichsel found his way to Wyoming, visiting a friend in the area and chose to dive in Lake DeSmet because he wanted to snag a fish larger than 30 inches. Deichsel competes in a seasonal Top Dawg Tournament, which entails fishermen hunting for the largest fish of 16 different species, walleye included.
“At first, the world record was not in my mind at all,” Deichsel said. “I was looking for a walleye over 30 inches because another spearo caught the largest walleye at 29.5 inches.”
Deichsel recorded the catch July 14. Weather didn’t cooperate with him as wind and rain marred much of the latter half of the day. With quite a bit of chop and the lack and visibility decreasing, Deichsel made one last dive and found the large fish.
“Once it was in my hands, I could tell it broke the 30-inch mark,” Deichsel said. “My thought was, ‘Yes, I finally got one.’”
Deichsel’s catch doesn’t qualify as a Wyoming record as Wyoming Game and Fish Department records only take into account fish caught on a hook and line.
However, that doesn’t make the fish any less impressive.
“That’s a really exceptional fish,” said Paul Mavrakis, a fish biologist with WGFD’s Sheridan Region.
Andy Ansin, a board member with the IUSA, believes Deichsel’s catch is the first spearfish record set in Wyoming. While a good number of record setters have been recorded in the United States, most of them occur on or near the coasts.
“I find all the freshwater records to be kind of interesting,” Ansin said. “People can do it in the most interesting of places.”
To legally spearfish in Wyoming one must fully submerge themselves without a breathing apprautus and have no artificial light. Spear fisherman must also have a flag marking where they dive so boaters know their location. Spearguns must come equipped with a lanyard, no longer than 20 feet, attached to the spear. Walleye were illegally introduced to Lake DeSmet in the 1980s and have since reproduced naturally. That has affected WGFD’s trout stocking strategies in said lake as walleye prey on fish of all species.
Walleye — which Wyoming receive in fish trades with North Dakota — are stocked in the region in warmer waters, such as Keyhole Reservoir, where trout don’t thrive, as well. The walleye record caught with a rod and reel in the state of Wyoming was landed in Boysen Reservoir in 1991. It weighed 17.42 pounds.
Deichsel, who has spearfished since 2010, also owns the Mexican Barred Snapper world record, which he recorded in Mexico in 2015.