From David A. Hall of Mesa, Arizona

Fisherman eats record-breaker before he realized what he caught

Cook County News-Herald
Last Updated: Friday, July 11th, 2003 09:32:48 AM


David Hall/Guest writer

It hit my line pretty hard, so I knew it was a big one. My heart raced a little as I reeled it in. It gets exciting when you can hear the fish pull your line out against the drag control. As we brought it to the side of the boat, I could tell my light tackle wouldn’t be able to lift it into the boat, so I handed the rod to my 15-year-old son, Spencer, netted the fish in the water, and lifted it into the boat.

It was nearly two feet long. But what kind of fish was it? We have been fishing Devil Track and other area lakes for over 25 years and never seen anything like it. It was silver-colored with large, loose scales and a funny mouth that looked like the mouth of a carp. He hit my orange “deep-runner” Rapala.

There was a man and his son on the shore. Maybe they would know. Both of them scratched their heads. No, it wasn’t a trout, though it looked a little bit like one. “Asian Carp?” He admitted it was a blind guess. He had a ruler and a scale—it weighed in at 4 pounds even, with a length of 21 inches. A pretty good catch for the day!

I was told I needed to report this to the ranger or someone. This was a memorable, historic fish and needed to be properly documented and maybe mounted. I kind of wanted to, but this was July 4th and we had barely enough time to get back to town for the fireworks.

Another fellow pulled up to land his boat. We showed him the fish and he said he thought it was a whitefish. Hmmm, interesting.

David Hall, posed in front of boat, holding fish in his hands.
David Hall poses with a fish he caught on Devil Track Lake recently. He didn’t realize that it was a record-breaking Menominee whitefish until he and his family returned home to Iowa and began researching the fish on the Internet — while it was baking in the oven.

We drove down to the fireworks in the harbor. It was a great display, the kind of show Grand Marais likes to put on. We stopped at the Dairy Queen for their Fourth of July special and then went back to our rented cabin in Croftville. We had to head back to Iowa the next day, and there wasn’t time to mess with it, so I decided we’d just clean the fish, ice it, and take it back to Mt. Vernon (Iowa) with us. I didn’t know much about whitefish, but I was confident they were good eating, and we wanted to take good care of the flesh. I did want a good picture, so I posed in front of the boat while my son Spencer snapped the photo before we got out the fish knife.

We had a nice trip back on Saturday. On Sunday, we researched “the fish” while it was baking for Sunday dinner.

Spencer dug up our Minnesota Fishing Regulations guide and found two kinds of whitefish listed. There’s the lake whitefish, and the record catch for that was 12 pounds 5 ounces, caught in Leech Lake. Then they listed the Menominee whitefish, with a record catch of 2 pounds 8 ounces in Lake Superior, in Cook County.

I found a Web site: It had pictures of all three varieties of whitefish. We compared them carefully with the photograph we had taken. This was definitely what they called a round whitefish, also known as the Menominee whitefish. The mouth was so distinctive. But that meant . . . .

photo of fish being dressed on the kitchen table
The Menominee whitefish did bake up into a tasty meal, however.

I took some ribbing for this one. I had broken the earlier Minnesota state record for a Menominee whitefish by nearly double, and had failed to properly record it. The state record was 2 pounds 8 ounces and ours was 4 pounds!

I’ll tell you one thing, though. It is true that whitefish are good eating.

David Hall is a dentist and the owner and president of Mapletree Publishing Company, a book publishing company in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. His family is originally from Cook County, and he attended Cook County High School. He comes up every year for one or two weeks of vacation.