Bluegill, 12.45 inches, is close to Wisconsin record
Park Falls, Wis. — Ever see a 12-inch bluegill?
Thomas “Skip” Sommerfeldt never had seen an honest-to-goodness foot-long bluegill until Sept. 9, and he’s been netting lakes every spring and shocking shorelines every fall for 30 years.
So, when Tom Glafcke, of Clam Lake, called Sommerfeldt on that Monday morning to ask if anyone at the Park Falls DNR office could verify his catch, Sommerfeldt naturally was a little skeptical.
But that’s exactly what Glafcke had – and then some.
The bluegill that Glafcke caught the evening of Sunday, Sept. 8 measured 12.45 inches, according to Sommerfeldt, a DNR fish biologist in Park Falls.
The weight came in at 2.32 pounds on a certified scale at the Super One grocery story on Monday morning.
The state record bluegill weighed 2 pounds, 9.8 ounces.
That fish was caught by Drew Garsow, of Green Bay, in 1995.
Glafcke, 62, was fishing alone that evening. He values his privacy when fishing, so besides fishing small, hard-to-reach lakes, he also had increased his chances of finding solitude by foregoing the Packers-49ers game.
“I didn’t think there would be too many other fishermen out during the game,” he said.
Glafcke headed to one of his favorite small bass lakes in the Chequamegon National Forest in Ashland County. He targeted bass with a small Rapala Fat Rap connected to his St. Croix rod with 8- pound-test line.
“There was a slight drizzle, calm water, and a little breeze. I was just slaying the bass,” he said. “When the bluegill hit, I thought that it was my biggest bass of the night to that point.”
As he got the big bluegill closer to the boat, it started swimming in circles, Glafcke’s first clue that he might have something other than a largemouth.
Then he saw it.
“I’ve been fishing since I was 3. I’ve never seen a bluegill even close to this fish. I knew it was my personal best, and I knew it was over 12 inches. I knew I would mount it: I saw dollar signs flying out the window.”
But first he had to get it into the boat.
Glafcke had not brought a net with him.
He saw that the bluegill had completely swallowed the Fat Rap, so he knew he had it securely hooked. He also knew he had fresh 8-pound-test line spooled on. He tried lifting the bluegill into the boat with his thin spinning rod.
Not a good idea.
“The rod snapped a couple of inches from the tip. The rod tip and the fish went back into the water,” he said.
Glafcke stayed with it, though, and reeled the rod tip and the bluegill within reach and got the fish into the boat.
On Monday morning, Tom and Linda Glafcke headed to the Park Falls DNR office to have Sommerfeldt and Jeff Scheirer, also a DNR fish biologist, verify length, weight, and that the fish was, indeed, a bluegill. They also stopped at the St. Croix Rod factory to share the catch with the St. Croix crew, who also replaced Glafcke’s broken rod.
From there they headed to North Country Taxidermy in Hazelhurst. On the way, they stopped at Kurt Justice’s Island Sport Shop in Minocqua. At Island Sport Shop – a good 18 hours after he had caught the fish – Glafcke was still excited about his catch. Fishermen who came into the shop during Glafcke’s visit got to lay eyeballs on a rare fish.
“It’s not every day you see a 12-inch bluegill,” Sommerfeldt said. “The biggest I’ve ever measured, whether by hook and line or when running survey nets, was just over 11 inches on a little lake up in Bayfield County.
“That’s one amazing bluegill,” he said. “Its belly was a little sunken. If it had been a pre-spawn fish, it would have been darn close to a state record.
“It’s a big fish, plain and simple.”