Wednesday, July 24th, 2024

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Wednesday, July 24th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Minnesota record coho salmon caught in Lake Superior, breaking 53-year-old mark

David Cichosz and wife Chris Sky with Cichosz’s Minnesota record coho, caught on Labor Day. (Photo courtesy of Fish North MN)

Duluth, Minn. — On Labor Day, a 53-year-old Minnesota angling record fell on Lake Superior. David Cichosz, of Wabasha, Minn., caught a 10-pound, 14 ounce coho salmon on Lake Superior while aboard a Fish North MN charter captained by Kent Paulsen while fishing out of Duluth harbor. Cichosz’s fish eclipsed a 10-pound, 6-ounce coho caught on Lake Superior in November 1970.

Cichosz and his wife, Chris Sky, were advised by Paulsen on their morning drive out that a lot of cohos that were close to the state record had been caught recently.

“We caught five lake trout in the first 40 minutes of the trip, just shy of their limit, so we switched all the baits over to flasher flies for salmon, moved (the lures) up higher in the water column, turned the boat around, and headed back toward Duluth,” Paulsen said.

“In the first five minutes after switching all the baits out, we had a fish just hammer a downrigger down 50 feet. By the time David got to the rod, that fish had ripped out 150 feet of line. He grabbed the rod, kept the tip up, and reeled it in perfectly. It hit the deck in the landing net and I knew immediately it was going to be close.”

RELATED STORY: Lake Superior’s impressive hatch of ciscoes is already showing in its salmon catch

Paulsen weighed the fish on his boat’s Boga-grip scale and got an 11-pound reading. With excited approval from Cichosz and Sky, lines were pulled, and the boat headed for port. They brought the fish to Super One Foods on Superior Street in Duluth, where the fish weighed 10.92 pounds on a certified scale.

Cichosz and Sky used the trip north from Wabasha as a break from work, a break from the heat, and a chance for Cichosz to experience Minnesota’s North Shore. Despite growing up in southeastern Minnesota, Cichosz had never been to Duluth or fished on Lake Superior before Labor Day.

“It was an incredible day,” Cichosz said. “To have this happen was pretty amazing. It’s life-changing. It’ll be something I remember the rest of my life. I come from a long history of men who like to tell fish stories, so this will be a fish story that I get to tell and brag about for the rest of my life and to the rest of my family. I’ve already started in with my dad. We’ve gone back and forth for years. It’s hard to beat, ‘well, I caught a state record.’ That’s kind of a trump card to play.”

For as impressive as the fish was, it was not Cichosz’s largest coho. He spent 20 years living in Washington state and regularly fished wild king and coho salmon, as well as steelhead.

“I’ve caught bigger cohos in Washington,” he said, “but this one will be the most memorable.”

Final verification and processing of the state-record application are occurring this week.

Minnesota DNR Lake Superior Migratory Fish Specialist Nick Peterson saw photos of the fish and said it was verified as a coho salmon by two fisheries professionals.

But how long will the record stand?

“The record is going to be broken multiple times over the next couple weeks, but being the first one to break a 53-year-old record is pretty special,” Paulsen said.

Peterson agrees on the potential for a larger coho to still be swimming in Superior.

“I would be surprised if it doesn’t get broken again by the end of this year,” he said.

Peterson said he believes the state-record coho may have been caught a few times already this year by anglers who didn’t know what the record weight was or who misidentified their catch as king salmon.

“There’s usually a two- to three-year rotation with salmon of strong year-classes in Lake Superior,” he said. “With cohos, it tends to be every third year.”

Peterson said he believes the remarkable 2022 cisco hatch is fueling incredible fish growth in Lake Superior. With a warmer-than-average summer, an abundance of cisco as forage, and a fair number of salmon already present, there appears to be a perfect storm for breaking records that track back to the boom years of Great Lakes salmon fishing.

“What we’ve found is that our Superior cohos are bug-eaters,” Peterson said. “That’s what our isotope project had shown. All the non-native fish overlapped with each other. Even the king salmon were bug specialists. That fish (that Cichosz caught) is either 3 or 4 years old. This fabulous cisco hatch from 2022 has fueled some incredible growth. Everything has been running larger than average this year, like Lake Michigan-looking salmon.

“We’ll be looking at diets again, especially with this huge crop of ciscoes available as prey,” he added. “We have two years of pre-data and now we’ll have post-data to see if the salmon shift over to a super-abundant prey item. The stomachs we’ve seen so far are showing a lot more fish for 2023 compared to other years. There are a lot of little ‘Snicker’s bars’ swimming out there.”

Editor’s note: There also were reports of a possible record-breaking coho caught a day earlier on Lake Superior. Either way, Cichosz’s fish likely will, at least for a while, be the state’s official record fish.

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