Three new state fish records set

Madison — Two anglers and a bowfisherman set three new state fish records with one whopper Lake Michigan whitefish and a pair of bigmouth buffalo that went better than 70 pounds.

Record whitefish

Roy Stromsness, of Sioux Falls, S.D., has vacationed in Wisconsin before, but a July 8-9 two-day fishing trip to Sheboygan was his first experience in fishing Lake Michigan for trout and salmon.

And, apparently, whitefish.

After having a big day fishing for trout and salmon July 8, the second day of fishing for the Sioux Falls group started out a little more slowly, but the excitement climbed a bit when Stromsness brought a 30.9-inch, 12.4-pound whitefish to the boat. It had an 181⁄2-inch girth.

“It stayed down, took line, it acted like a big trout or salmon. When it came in, we were all looking at it, uncertain what we had until it hit the net. It was kind of strange because I’d never seen a big whitefish before,” Stromsness said. “I had eaten them before while on vacation. Then the captain. said it was a whitefish. The first mate said whitefish don’t get that big, but if it was a whitefish, it had to be a state record.”

Stromsness and four friends were fishing with Capt. Chuck Nelson and first mate Jake Rogers aboard the Dumper Dan I out of the Sheboygan harbor. Nelson had a digital scale on the boat.

The big whitefish pushed that scale to 121⁄2 pounds.

“That caused cell phones to go goofy as they tried to figure out what the state record was. After it was found out the record was 11 pounds, 11 ounces, that fish took on a little different meaning,” Stromsness said.

The previous record was set with a Lake Superior whitefish caught in 1977 off of Iron County by Joseph Jorgensen Jr., of Tomahawk.

“We fished maybe another hour and 45 minutes and went back to the harbor by a few minutes past 10 a.m.. We had it officially weighed on a certified scale at the Schwarz Fish Company in Sheboygan. They were very generous; what retail place would welcome someone with a big fish that was going to drip all over their scales? They did. They thought it was neat. They certified it at 12.40 pounds, then we went to the DNR office,” Stromsness said.

DNR fish biologist Travis Motl, of the Plymouth office, confirmed the catch as a lake whitefish, and verified that no weights had been placed in the fish’s body cavity. Stromsness filled out a form to apply for a state fish record. The DNR accepted the application the following week.

Capt. Dan Welsch, owner of Dumper Dan’s Sportfishing Charters in Sheboygan, said Nelson and Rogers had been fishing south of the Sheboygan harbor in 100 feet of water and about 30 feet down. They used a lead-core line on a board. The fish hit a Stinger Spoon at about 8:15 a.m.

Welsch said he and his captains usually catch 10 to 12 whitefish a season between Welsch’s six charter boats.

“We caught a 7-pound whitefish a couple of days later,” he said. “The commercial guys net them all summer long. They’re in the area.”

Stromsness was fishing with friends Steve Wicks, Ray Hanson, and Michael Hanson. Stromsness and another friend booked a two-day trip with Welsch during a Sioux Falls sport show this past winter.

“It was my first trip to Lake Michigan,” Stromsness said. “I’ve been in Wisconsin on a couple of other vacations. It just looked like it would be a lot of fun. The crew did a good job. They wanted to catch fish and they worked hard. We caught kings, cohos, a couple of lake trout, and a couple of rainbows. The first day was the best day of fishing. We were hoping for a brown trout, then we would have covered all of the (trout and salmon) species we could have caught, but we caught the whitefish the second day.

“I consider that a bonus. I came home with a fish story. I can’t catch a state record in South Dakota, but I can in Wisconsin. It’s a fun feeling. It’s kind of neat to say you caught the biggest fish in that particular area,” he said.

“We had a good time. I believe we will come back again.”

Record buffalo

The first of two state record bigmouth buffalo was caught by 12-year-old Noah LaBarge, of Ottawa, Ill., on June 21.

Wisconsin DNR Conservation Warden Bryan Lockman and deputy warden Taylor Hecht, both of Wisconsin Rapids, assisted LaBarge in registering a new state hook-and-line record bigmouth buffalo that was caught from shore at the Devil’s Elbow of the Petenwell Flowage. The fish weighed 761⁄2 pounds, measured 491⁄2 inches in length, and had  a girth of 35 inches.

LaBarge was fishing with his brother Shane that Friday night for catfish. He told the wardens that the big bigmouth didn’t fight very hard. He said it only took a couple minutes to land the monster fish on 8-pound-test line. He used a worm for bait.

The previous state record bigmouth buffalo went 73 pounds, 2 ounces, and was caught in March 2004 from Lake Koshkonong in Jefferson County.

“Noah thought he was snagged on the bottom. He reeled it in all by himself because it didn’t fight,” Hecht said. “They weren’t sure what it was, but a couple of people who were fishing nearby helped him bring it up over some rocks and get it to a nearby road. Those other fishermen knew what it was. It weighed 79 or 80 pounds that night. They saw it was heavier than the state record.”

LaBarge and his brother called Lockman the next morning. Hecht was working with Lockman that day, so both wardens registered the fish for LaBarge. They weighed the fish at Pete’s Meat Service, of Rudolph, on a certified scale.

“Noah told us he’ll have to go back home and catch the Illinois record now, but he must not have been in a hurry. We saw him shortly afterward fishing again from shore,” Hecht said.

Hecht said bigmouth buffalo are most often caught by anglers in the spring during the spawn.

Hecht added that a bowfisherman set a new state bowfishing record this spring when he shot a  701⁄2-pound fish on the Castle Rock Flowage, the next flowage downstream on the Wisconsin River from the Petenwell.

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