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Josh Boyer holds the fat-bellied walleye

Josh Boyer holds the fat-bellied walleye that he caught while fishing on Fort Peck Reservoir in May. The 12-pound, 8-ounce fish topped a record he set three years ago in the International Game Fish Association’s Smallfry division.

BILLINGS -- It was one of those weekends when Laura Boyer wondered why she hadn’t stayed home in Billings with her two boys, Josh and Sammy, instead of going camping.

Hail and wind thrashed the tent so hard one day that it was surprising the shelter stayed upright. Fishing on Fort Peck Reservoir with her father, Jim Boyer, was boringly slow. Then there came one bright spot that made all of the effort of packing gear into the wilds of Eastern Montana worthwhile: Josh caught a walleye so big that it topped his old International Game Fish Association junior angler record for boys 10 and younger — called the Smallfry division.

“We haven’t had a lot of good luck this year, just that one fish,” Laura said.

The walleye topped Josh’s old record by 1 inch and 1 pound. He caught his previous record walleye in 2011, when he was only 7 years old, while fishing on the Missouri River downstream of Fred Robinson Bridge.

Josh’s new fish weighed 12 pounds, 8 ounces, measured 32 inches long and was caught while fishing near Fourchette Bay, along the northwestern shore of Fort Peck Reservoir. The fish even tops the next IGFA category — the Junior division — by more than 2 pounds.

It was early in the morning when Josh went out on the lake with his grandfather on May 31, the Saturday after Memorial Day. He said he was jigging with a minnow when he was “pretty sure” he hooked a fish. It didn’t seem to take long to reel the walleye in, but Josh said he knew it could challenge his old record after his grandfather netted the lunker and started high-fiving him.

“When dad came back to camp and said he thought it was bigger than the last one, I said ‘No it’s not. It can’t be,’ ” Laura said.

With a certified scale at camp, the group knew almost right away that the new fish had topped Josh’s old record.

“I was shocked,” Laura said, but the scale’s certification had expired. As soon as they returned home, she had it recertified and it was dead accurate.

“When I found out, I was about to die,” Josh said.

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In spite of that knowledge, it took quite a while for the anxious Arrowhead School fifth-grader to receive official notification that the fat walleye was a new IGFA junior record. When an official said it would be certified around the first of August, Laura began checking the IGFA website every day for more than a month.

“I almost woke him up at 10 o’clock that night when I found out,” Laura said. “But he had huge eyes when he saw it on the website that next morning.”

The new fish eventually will be mounted next to his other record walleye that adorns one wall of his bedroom. A row of punctured archery targets taped over the closet door is testimony to another of his outdoor pursuits.

Having a new record means the world to Josh, Laura said, and is a huge boost for his ego. Yet he’s shy about talking to a reporter about the experience, instead fascinated by knotting and unknotting his lime green tennis shoe laces.

His black T-shirt may say it all for him. It reads: Keep calm and be awesome.

“What most people will see first in the picture is a huge fish,” Laura wrote in an email containing the photo, “but what I see is a healthy smiling boy.”

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