Darin Laue was in for an unexpected surprise when he was walleye fishing on Lake Poinsett in eastern South Dakota on April 27. Laue, of Castlewood, S.D., was having an unsuccessful day walleye fishing, when at around 6:30 p.m. he hooked into a 6-pound, 9-ounce smallmouth, and a new South Dakota record.
The lake was choppy, and the water temperature had dropped into the 40s because of recent snowfall, and the air temperature was a frigid 38. Laue was fishing a rockpile near shore with a hot pink jig right next to his buddy's boat when it hit.
"We found this rockpile a few nights ago that held walleye, so we went back but weren't having any luck, except for this," Laue said. He said it was an exceptional fight, as he was using a 6 1/2-foot Scheels Outfitters IM8 graphite rod spooled with 6-pound-test Berkley Trilene monofilament.
After catching the record smallie, Laue and his friends kept fishing, not yet appreciating what they had in the livewell. "We took some pictures, then put it away and kept fishing, but when we thought it could be a record, we called it in," Laue said. "We went to Lakeview Resort to use the scale, saw how big it was and then we went to Watertown, where they have certified scales," says Laue.
The previous record smallmouth was caught on Lewis and Clark Lake on the South Dakota-Nebraska border by Loran Moore in 1999. Laue's fish trumps Moore's by seven ounces. He's overwhelmed by his record-breaking experience. "I'm still taking it all in," he said.
Mark Ermer, South Dakota's Northeast Regional Fisheries Manager, isn't surprised that the new record came from one of his lakes. "It really could have come from a number of lakes in this region, because they're all so healthy," he says. "Poinsett is known for its smallmouth population."
Ermer says the smallmouth fisheries in his region have been growing and becoming established over the past ten years for a number of reasons. There is a new slot regulation stipulating the release of all fish between 12 and 18 inches, protecting the most productive spawners.
"The new regulation has really helped the fish out more than anything, and while it isn't in effect on Poinsett yet, it should be within a year," Ermer says. "We're seeing a lot more fish in the 21-inch and up range as a result of this new regulation."
Stocking the lakes of Northeast South Dakota proved worthwhile as well. "We stocked them about 5 or 6 years ago, and they have done well on their own.
"These lakes are ideal for smallmouth development, according to Ermer. "It's a very healthy system for smallmouth. There are lots of crayfish and rocky points and pilings that provide good habitat."
While Ermer says the fisheries are still developing, he is pleased with the progress that has been made. He is also proud that the new state record came from one of his lakes, but is optimistic that even bigger fish will emerge as the fisheries grow. "This record will probably stand for a year or two, but if things keep going at the rate they are at, we should be seeing bigger fish all the time."