Filling the afternoon spot on August 21, 1999 was John Gregory Jr. and his dad John Gregory Sr. along with mom Gail. Up from Texas to visit their son, John Sr. made it known to the family that he would like to sample Lake Michigan fishing. Due to a last minute cancellation we had the afternoon open and gladly welcomed the Gregory’s aboard.
Back out to 275′ of water we set lines and began trolling north. Picking up a fish here and there we were enjoying a nice afternoon on the lake.
Yelling “fish on”, first mate Glenn McGrew grabbed the bent over rod and handed it to Mr. Gregory. After about six or seven minutes I began thinking out loud that this fish might possibly be foul-hooked. It had come up initially but now had sounded and was waging it’s war from down below.
At twelve or thirteen minutes I had “Pegasus” down to a crawl, trying to relieve as much pressure on the fish as I could. Slowly John worked the fish toward the boat and then it was up near the surface. “Maybe you’ll want to net this one” Glenn called to me.
Looking back I saw a good sized fish which I thought looked like a coho but still was not sure. Trading places with Glenn I slipped the net under a fish which surprised me with it’s weight. “A Coho, no, a King” I said as I tossed it into the cooler. “Nice fish, probably in the mid twenties” I said to no one in particular.
Then I returned to the helm. Then I went back to the cooler to take another look at the fish. Then back to the helm. This took place another nine or ten times over the next hour. The Gregory’s must have thought this was my first charter and I had no idea of what we had just caught. They were half right! The fish looked like a coho but with good weight and size and a tail full of spots it must be a king I thought. Maybe a Rainbow, no, it doesn’t have the right head or tail shape and it’s got gray gums.
Back at the dock we took our ten fish out of the cooler for a couple photos before cleaning them. “How do you want these cleaned” I asked, half expecting the standard answer “with a knife”! Once on the table I could not bring myself to cut that big one. I swayed a couple times, almost cleaning it but then electing not to. “Glenn, run this fish over to McKinley and see what the other guys think of it” I told my first mate. While I cleaned the rest of the fish Glenn and John drove the fish for some other opinions.
Luckily a DNR fish creel census taker was at the McKinley fish cleaning station. Amid a noisy debate by the ten or so fishermen who were present the creel census taker told Glenn to get the fish to a certified scale. Based on his count of the rays in the anal fin he suspected this fish to be a coho and a big one at that. Twenty six pounds by his scale.
The next day, between charters, found Glenn and I at the workplace of DNR biologist Jim Thompson. Along with Laurie, a fellow biologist, these two began the task of positively identifying the fish. This in itself made me feel better because here were two fisheries people who could not say for sure just what specie this fish was.
One and one half hours later with all the pyloric ceca lined up and counted Jim and Laurie turned to me and said fifty-eight! Jim had explained to me that counting the ceca was the definitive test to positively i.d. a fish. Between 40 and 114 and it’s a coho, 140 to over two hundred and it’s a king.
Offering congratulations on having a new state record coho, Jim took a very real but unseen weight off of me. Fighting the urge to shout for joy I said thanks and asked what needed to be done next. Glenn on the other hand simply said “excuse me” and then let out with a whoop! What a great feeling! YES, YES, YES!!!!
We now know from scale aging that this fish was four years old. Somehow it’s genetics were programmed to spawn at four instead of the usual three years of age.
Certainly catching this fish was a fluke, very much the same as winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning. I’m not a smarter or better fisherman than I was before, just a luckier one!! Now if you will please excuse me, “YEEESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!”
The vital statistics on this coho. It was a female with a weight of 26lbs., 1.2oz. Length, 38″ even. Girth, 23.8″. She hit a Luhr Jensen hammered chrome dodger size “0” with a green crinkle “Howie” fly 24″ behind it. The lure was set 80′ down in 290′ of water, just slightly north of due east of Milwaukee’s main gap and lighthouse. Our boat speed was 2.3 mph.