9-25-03 - MP's largest freshwater fish ever (I
Waters Fished: Milwaukee River
Fish Caught: 1 fair landed personally, several others
Outing Date: 9-25-03
Weather: Partly Sunny
Air Temp: Cool, seemed to be 60's max
Water Temp: Didn't take it
Water Level: extremely low
Water Color: pretty clear and very stained
Fish Species: Chinook Salmon, possibly Browns & Steelheads too
Pattern Fished: Mostly Glo Bugs
Pattern Color: Patterns with Chartreuse worked best
Fishing Quality: TONS OF FUN!
Alright, we took Wednesday off to go back to Chicago
so my bro could hang with his friends (and I could take the time
to write Monday's report while it was still REALLY FRESH in my head).
So it's Thursday, and as usual the guys aren't super enthusiastic
about getting up before noon :)
So I'm in control for the next day or two, and
I call the Milwaukee. Show these guys some different water and possibly
some fish! Sounds like a plan...we get there at 2:00 pm and the
place is relatively deserted!
I dropped them all in at Estabrook...nice when
you can get it. Before too long, my brother has a fish on...heck..fish
are EVERYWHERE. Fishing for a week straight is SWEET! I'm getting
ready to land Chris's fish when I turn to see that Phil ALSO has
one on! AWESOME!
So we get Chris's fish in and I snap a shot...a
totally fair Chinny on a glo bug (Chartreuse I think). Once again
he has beat me to the punch and landed the first fair salmon of
the day. Meanwhile I'm in no terrible hurry 'cause I think Phil's
fish is fouled on the dorsal...and well...it got away anyways.
So Chris is a bit tired...and arrogantly says "I've
got MY fish for the day, give me the camera"! Yes sir master
fisherman! Well, he snaps off some really cool shots, and is there
to capture what happens next.
Phil and I are going shoulder to shoulder, him
upstream, workin the run. Phil hooks up, and his fish turns immediately
to run downstream. I do my best to pull my line, but my tippet ends
up tangled around the butt of Phil's leader...and this salmon could
It runs downriver, then up, then down, and all
the while I'm trying to keep all tension OFF my line...feeding it
out, reeling up excess slack. My bro thinks, at first, that we have
2 on at the same time (yeah, that's always a lot of fun :)
Well, This keeps on going for a while and we start
to get Phil's fish in close to shore...it's totally fair and well,
that's what Phil has been waiting for. Chris decides to put down
the camera and be netboy (smart decision).
One problem, when you're netboy you can't be smokin'
a butt and out to lunch! Phil coerces his fish close to shore, out
maybe 4 feet from my brother, who's sittin' there with the net in
his hands. We both look at Chris.
"Are you gonna net that fish?" I shout
at my bro.
He kinda looks at me and says "Um, Oh yeah..".
Mr. Totally Out-To-Lunch netboy Chris makes a lame attempt at moving
towards the fish and totally puts the King into another run. Unfortunately,
that would be the last (and only) opportunity Chris had to net her,
as she bolted across stream and Phil's line popped. Mr. Chris is
officially on Phil's list...
So if I recall correctly, I got a call from Tom
Bender around 4:00; I had emailed him on Wed. and let him know of
my diabolical plan to hit the Milwaukee...his home waters. Well,
shortly after I hung up, I'm sitting there drifting the run when
my line jerks and rips downstream.
At first I stand there and let my drag do what
it's supposed to...let the fish take line but apply some resistance...not
enough to break the tippet (8lb Pline) but enough to make the fish
"work for it".
And then my backing appears. What? Wait a second...I've
never SEEN THAT BEFORE!
"Oh SHIT!" That's $45 fly line on there....and
I'm chasing it downstream! My brother has the net in hand and starts
wading..then finds the path that runs along the bank.
"FISH ON" he's shouting as he runs, most
people looking at him like he's nuts...this boy doesn't even have
a ROD in his hands.
And then they turn to look at me as I stumble downriver,
and I shout "FISH OOOONNNNN!" I have no idea how much
line is out until I see this fish roll at the surface downstream...several
HUNDRED FEET. It turns, I bring up slack..and eventually make it
to the very end of my fly line when...wouldn't ya know...there's
my backing again...we're still going downriver.
And we're still shouting "FISH FRIGGIN ON!".
I'm horse 'cause I'm shouting this as folks are casting over my
line...completely oblivious that there's a fish on my line about
as far downstream as I am upstream from where they sit. I can still
recall the sight of spoons hanging on my flyline like laundry hung
out to dry. It is entirely unbelievable that, at this point, I still
have a fish, let alone my flyline.
Well, we ended up several hundred feet downriver
from the falls, and the slug fest really started. This fish is BIG,
and STRONG. I can't turn it...so I fear it's fouled. It's not jumping,
but it is rolling quite a bit...if it's not fouled it soon will
be, that's for sure. I end up seeing my backing 6 TIMES over the
course of the next 20 minutes or so, never really making enough
progress. Meanwhile, somewhere along in there, Tom shows up, gets
my camera (I think my bro had it at that point) and starts shooting
My bro misses several netting opportunities but
finally I get the fish close. I'm talking "finally" as
in my left arm got tired, then it hurt a lot, and then it just went
numb. I'm into a fish I'm wholly unprepared for...afterall I've
given the heavier rods to my bro and Phil and I'm out here we my
Miraculously, my bro FINALLY comes to his senses,
jumps back in the river, and NETS MY FISH. LOSER NETBOY CHRIS has
redeemed himself! One problem though..the fish DOESN'T FIT IN THE
NET...it's TOO LONG! So we kinda half-ass drag it into shore where
I get a good handle on the gill & jaw and heave it for a photo.
Believe it or not, I had to rest a couple minutes before having
enough strength to hold it back up for the 2nd fish photo at right.
As we walked back upstream we got some nice compliments
on that fish..man I worked so friggin hard and smart (never brought
my rod up past 45 degrees until the VERY, VERY END). This King Salmon
was dead about 2 minutes after landing it...it gave everything it
had not to be landed. A STUNNING, will never forget battle. There
wasn't any hope of reviving this fish, so even though a little dark,
it "went in my creel".
We had a lot of guesses on the weight of this bruiser...I
went 30 lbs (granted, it felt like a 40 lb bag of dog food on the
way back up), Phil went 25 and Chris went 26.5. Turns out by the
time we got it on the scale at home, 24 lbs., 37.5" length
and 22" girth. Guess what folks; those online calculators put
it at 23.5 or so...they're VERY accurate. While not a state record,
heck I later found out not even close, this Chinook very well could
be the largest fish I've ever landed in Freshwater (carp excluded).
Well, I was DONE for the day....as was my brother
and for the most part, Phil. However, other anglers were still working.
Our new fishin' buddy Alex who was kind enough to share the run
with us hooked up big time shortly after we got back. Once again,
netboy Chris leaps into action unlike his first attempt and lands
Alex's fish in short order..another stunning Chinook.
Tom settles in and fishes too...and manages himself
a nice solid hookup just before dark! Too bad he didn't land it,
although the pictures may or may not have turned out at that point
By this time, we were all TIRED...but totally thrilled
at having another awesome day. I took a moment to enjoy my surroundings
as darkness fell and managed to find a couple Kings above the falls
who rocketed off as I walked back...made for some nice photos in
the pitch black!
If there is on lesson learned from all of this...make
sure YOU HAVE A NET! Oh, and if you're wondering WHY I have browns
and steelhead on the species list today...Alex saw a brown trying
to jump the falls, and also had what he thinks was a steelhead on
that day. Other rumors also suggest that there may indeed be at
least a few milling about.