A week into Minnesota's latest walleye season and LeRoy Chiovitte's state record walleye is still holding firm.

If you don't recognize the name, Chiovitte is the Hermantown angler who, 40 years ago, caught a monster walleye that became and is still the Minnesota record for hook-and-line: 17 pounds, 8 ounces, 35 and ¾ inches long and 21 and ¼ inches around the belly.

The stuffed walleye still sits in a glass case in the Chiovittes' front room.

The big female was caught on the Seagull River where it enters Saganaga Lake on May 13, 1979. Saganaga seems to hold some of the largest walleyes in Minnesota. The weather was cold that year, and many walleyes spawned late. Chiovitte had caught a 12½-pounder on Saturday, the season opener, that was spawned out. He hooked his 17½-pounder at about 8 a.m. on Sunday when it was still full of eggs.

Catch-and-release fishing was just catching on in those days but Chiovitte and his friends weren't releasing many walleyes at that point. That weekend he and his two friends, Lorin and Todd Palmer of Cloquet, took home 10 walleyes that weighed a collective 86 pounds.

That area of the Seagull River is now off-limits to anglers in the spring, specifically to protect concentrations of spawning walleyes. Chiovitte has said he thinks his walleye record is safe now that spawning fish are mostly off-limits.

"Almost every record fish is full of spawn, and now you can't fish up there this time of year, so it's going to be pretty hard to top it," Chiovitte told the News Tribune last week.

Chiovitte, now 82, is in great spirits but is in his third battle against cancer, this time lung cancer. But he still gets out fishing, now more for trout than walleye.

"I just caught a nice three-pound rainbow yesterday, up by Finland in a little lake,'' he said. "It's going to be supper tomorrow night."

The closest anyone has come to catching (and keeping) a walleye as big was on July 4, 1989, when then-University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks caught one that weighed 17 pounds, 6 ounces on Loon Lake along the Gunflint Trail. It was weighed more than two hours later and it's possible it might have bested Chiovitte's record has it been weighed sooner. But we'll never know.

Vermilion muskies studied, pike regs change

Anglers on Lake Vermilion have simplified northern pike regulations this season.

The lake is now being managed under the region-wide northern zone northeast pike regs rather than a Lake Vermilion-specific regulation. All northern pike from 30-40 inches must be immediately released and only one fish over 40 inches are allowed in the possession limit of two. For winter darkhouse spearing, the limit is two fish with only one allowed over 26 inches.

Meanwhile, Tower area fisheries staff will be surveying muskellunge on Vermilion in an attempt to obtain a population estimate. Boaters on Vermilion may see crews out lifting large trap nets near shore.

Captured muskies will be measured and tagged and then released. The tags will not be visible to anglers but can be located by special devices the DNR uses. By individually identifying tagged fish when they are recaptured the DNR hopes to get a good estimate of the total number of muskies in Vermilion. The Vermilion Lake Association and the Lake Vermilion Resort & Tourism Association generously donated two PIT tag readers to help with the project, added Evarts.

This summer fisheries staff will also be taking genetic samples to record unique DNA fingerprints form fish caught. Muskie anglers who would like to assist in the project by taking scale samples of their catch can contact Jer Malley at the DNR Tower fisheries office, 218-300-7802 or jer.malley@state.mn.us.

Wisconsin board will set deer seasons May 22

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will meet May 22 in Madison and is expected to set the specifics of this fall's deer seasons and harvest quotas as well as adopt a new bear management plan. The board also is expected to discuss, but not take action on, chronic wasting disease management issues.

Starting with the May meeting, the Natural Resources Board will be offering one remote location around the state for the public to participate in a live open forum with the board. Comments generally should address broad general policy rather than the day-to-day operations of the Department of Natural Resources. The first open forum remote location for the May 22 meeting will be in Spooner at the DNR Service Center, 810 W. Maple Drive. Future remote locations include Eau Claire for the June 26 meeting when the board will be meeting in Barneveld.

Other topics on the May 22 meeting agenda include a request to approve proposed rules related to aquaculture and fish farms; a request for rules related to marten trapping closed areas; and request for approval of proposed rule relating to well construction and pump installation, and other topics.