In N.Y., nearly 60-inch muskie caught in Henderson Harbor

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Capt. Gene Bolton (l) and Bob Slater hoist a nearly 60-inch muskie caught in July in Henderson Bay on Lake Ontario. Bolton was targeting walleyes when they hooked into the massive muskie. (Photo provided)

Henderson, N.Y. — A nearly 60-inch muskellunge was caught in Henderson Harbor, Lake Ontario in late July. Capt. Gene Bolton, of Sunken Treasure Fishing Charters, in Henderson, was guiding Watertown area anglers Bob and Stephanie Slater (father and daughter) when they hooked into the massive fish towards the end of their trip,

Bolton regularly targets walleyes on his charters but said he occasionally does hook into muskies, which are often chasing smallmouth bass or brown trout.

“I’ve caught six in my life, four over 45 inches,” Bolton said of hooking muskies. “Nothing compared to this fish.”

Bolton said his typical walleye spread includes a mixture of Bombers, Rapalas and Berkley Flicker Minnows on 12-pound test line. That was the scenario when the big female muskie chased one of his baits.

“We were fishing the 22- to 30-foot contour line,” Bolton said. “We were at the end of our charter and she hammered a Flicker in the middle of our pattern. It tangled some lines up and we had to untangle, cut, and re-tie onto a different pole to be able to land it. It was quite the adventure.”

It took about 30 minutes to get the fish to the boat. The anglers knew it was big, but didn’t realize just how big until they boated it. They had a decision to make, and fast.

“My first question to him was ‘do you want this fish to swim away, what are you thinking?’  He had the same answer as I did, and that was that the fish needed to swim,” Bolton said.

After a few quick photos and a length measurement, a tense 45 minutes followed.

“We shut the boat off and drifted away from her and she was top-side on the surface,” Bolton said. “It was glass-calm and we got to view her. She would not go down off the surface, but she stayed top-side, breathing. We gave her about 20 to 30 more minutes.”

The anglers became worried and Bolton said that at one point he was a little emotional.

“I thought she was hurt, and too stressed out to make it,” he said. “So, we slowly went up to her, shut the engine off again and drifted into her. Then she rocketed like a canon ball. We were able to mark her on the Sonar right down to the bottom.”

In all the excitement and rush to get the big muskie back in the water, the anglers didn’t weigh the fish or measure the girth, only the length, which came in at 59-1⁄2 inches. Bolton said they did compare the fish to a 5-gallon bucket on board and that she was easily and inch or two wider.

“I did some research and talked to some taxidermists and muskie guys, we’re estimating between 55- or a 65-pound fish,” Bolt said of the weight of the fish. “I caught a 57-inch in Chaumont Bay but it didn’t compare to this fish. This fish was older, the girth, it was just impressive, almost unexplainable. It’s one of those fish that you don’t run into very often, but if we’re going catch one we’re going to catch one walleye fishing. I’ve lost a lot of them.”

New York’s state record muskellunge is 67 inches, and weighed 69 pounds, 15 ounces. It dates back to 1957 and also came from Jefferson County, but in the  St. Lawrence River.

Bolton, who has been guiding for ten years and is a member of the New York State Outdoor Guides Association, said the experience was humbling, adding that it “always puts me in check. It’s hard to come up with the right words.”

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