Bellaire, Mich. — Portage resident Joe Seeberger’s annual northern Michigan fishing trips have become legendary.
This year’s fall trek to the Elk River Chain of Lakes in Antrim County with about 10 of his buddies not only produced dozens of good-sized smallies and several nice walleyes between them, but Seeberger hooked a fish that none of them will ever forget: a 58-pound, 59-inch Great Lakes muskie.
Once the official paperwork is processed by the Michigan DNR, it’s expected to be recorded as the largest muskie ever caught in the state, besting the previous record for a Great Lakes muskie by nearly 8 pounds and 3 inches.
“We had been up there since Wednesday (Oct. 10) and had caught 100 nice smallies. We go up there every year,” Seeberger told Michigan Outdoor News. “We’ve caught muskie here and there and have gotten bit off a number of times.
“This year, we got bit off probably 10 times.”
At about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, Seeberger said he was drifting a 7-inch sucker minnow from his boat and fishing with two buddies along the north end of Lake Bellaire when it happened.
He knew right away it wasn’t a bass.
“It came toward the boat and as soon as it saw the boat it took off. It looked like a shark going through the water,” Seeberger said. “It actually came out of the water early on, which scared me.”
The experienced angler said he was using 8-pound monofilament line, and he knew what he needed to do to keep the massive fish from snapping it. He previously had caught a 30-pound muskie on the same 8-pound test on a fishing trip in Tennessee.
“I had to stay on the trolling motor, chasing it … all the way out to 70 feet (deep) and back to the 5-foot flats,” he said. “It was tiring. I had my MinnKota (trolling motor) at 100 percent for quite a while.
“I hooked her around 8:30 and finally landed it around 10:30 (a.m.).”
Getting the massive muskie in the boat wasn’t easy, he said.
“We tried netting it by the head and the tail and it broke both nets,” Seeberger said, adding that a friend from another boat came aboard to help out. “I ended up using my boat tie-down ropes and making a lasso out of it.”
It took three men to pull the fish aboard, he said.
The crew then headed to Captain’s Choice Marine in Bellaire, where they bought their bait, to show off their prize. Eventually, they flagged down a Bellaire police officer who measured the fish at 59 inches and helped locate a certified scale at the Ellsworth Co-op to record its weight. DNR Conservation Officer Steve Speigl and DNR biologist Patrick Hanshin met Seeberger in Ellsworth.
Using an analog scale, the monster muskie weighed in a tad over 58 pounds, Seeberger said, but he submitted paperwork to the state at 58 pounds even.
“I check anglers several times a week … and it is the biggest muskie I have ever seen,” Speigl said.
It may be the biggest muskie anyone in Michigan has ever seen, Hanshin said.
Once DNR officials confirm the measurements, it’s expected to become the new state record.
Hanshin said he wasn’t surprised the fish came from the Chain of Lakes, the same water system that produced the current state record. Kyle Anderson reeled in a 50-pound, 8-ounce muskie measuring 561⁄8 inches from Torch Lake in September 2009.
“In the Elk River chain we get some natural reproduction and we stock it, so between the two we produce a good muskie fishery,” Hanshin said.
Hanshin said he went to the Ellsworth Co-op to confirm the species of the fish, but it’s up to the angler to properly record and submit the fish for the record book. Seeberger said the paperwork is in the mail.
Hanshin said he was also on hand when Anderson landed the current state record in 2009, and believes the extra length on Seeberger’s muskie makes a big difference in its weight.
“It’s a lot longer, that’s why it’s got the weight,” he said. “The last one was 56 inches, so those three inches count for a lot of weight on a fish that size.”
Although Torch Lake and Lake Bellaire are “quite different lakes,” Hanshin said there are aspects they share that help produce big fish.
“They have plenty of forage and deep, cool water,” he said. “Other big ones have come out of” the Chain of Lakes.
The state record Great Lakes muskie prior to Anderson’s catch also came from the Chain of Lakes – a 48-pound fish caught on Lake Skegemog in 1984 by Charles S. Edgecomb.
Tom Durecki, of Tom’s Bait and Tackle in East Jordan, said, “There are not a lot of muskies in (Lake Bellaire), but they get some big ones.”
Seeberger’s catch is already becoming legendary, he said.
“I was at the local pub last night and they were all talking about it,” Durecki added.
Seeberger said it was an experience he and his friends will ever forget.
“After we left Ellsworth, we went straight to a taxidermist,” he said.