- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A Watertown resident recently landed what may be the biggest chinook salmon ever caught in South Dakota.

Darrick Koch and a fishing partner were trolling along the face of Oahe Dam on Lake Oahe last Friday when he hooked the whopper. At first he didn’t know what he had.

“When you’re out there salmon fishing there’s all kinds of fish that could bite,” Koch told the Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/2auc4sD ). “You don’t really know what you have on.”

The fish was too big for the scale at a Fort Pierre bait shop. Koch took it to a Pierre grocery store, where it weighed in at nearly 31 pounds 6 ounces - almost 7 pounds heavier than the state record.

“It’s amazing,” Koch said.

South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department will need to verify the weight before the record becomes official.

Salmon fishing has been good of late on the Lake Oahe reservoir, which is on the Missouri River and stretches about 230 miles from Pierre, South Dakota, to Bismarck, North Dakota.

South Dakota wildlife officials have said baitfish conditions have been almost ideal for growing big salmon. Carl’s Bait Shop owner Dan Miller said several salmon caught his year have been over 20 pounds. South Dakota’s state record was set just last fall, when Highmore angler Gordon Sampson landed a salmon that weighed 24 pounds, 8 ounces. That broke the previous record of 23 pounds, 14 ounces.

“This is really exciting because all of this is coming after the 2011 flood,” Miller said.

Flooding on the Missouri River that year nearly destroyed Lake Oahe’s rainbow smelt baitfish population and flushed a lot of the lake’s salmon through the dam. That led to several years of poor salmon fishing, but the baitfish population - particularly lake herring - has since rebounded.

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Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com

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