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
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
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
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.
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