Roger Hellen, left, and Joe Miller with trout caught at Salmon-a-Rama on July 16
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said so today.
Lake Michigan Brown Trout Reels in New State Record;
41 pound 8 ounce monster a sign of the great fishery
MADISON – It’s official: the 41 pound, 8 ounce brown trout Roger Hellen of Franksville caught in Lake Michigan on July 16 is now a Wisconsin state record fish.
The Department of Natural Resources received Hellen’s application earlier this week and has confirmed the new state record, which smashes the old record by nearly 5 pounds. The previous record was 36 pounds 8.9 ounces and 40.5 inches for a fish caught August 23, 2004, in Lake Michigan in Kewaunee County.
Hellen’s is the ninth state record set this year, and the first for a fish caught by hook and line. The other records have been for fish taken using alternate methods, including a spearing record for lake sturgeon and six bowfishing records. One of those bowfishing records, for smallmouth buffalo, was established for the first time in March and has changed hands twice since, once in April and again on July 1.
Hellen caught the fish in Lake Michigan north of Racine while competing in a fishing tournament. The fish measured 40.6 inches long and weighed 41 pounds 8 ounces on a certified scale at a local meat market, according to Cheryl Peterson, the state fisheries technician who weighed, measured and processed the fish at the tournament.
With that certified weight, Hellen’s fish would appear to squeak by the 41 pound 7 ounces world record brown trout caught last year in the Big Manistee River in Michigan.
“It was very exciting – it was certainly the biggest trout or salmon I’ve ever seen,” says Peterson, a fish technician on Lake Michigan since 1997. “We knew as soon as it was on the scale it was going to be a new state record.”
Chomping on round gobies
The brown trout fishery in Wisconsin’s Great Lakes waters, like the salmon fishery, is supported by stocking originally done to help control populations of alewife, an invasive fish species, but now done as well to support what’s become a popular fishery.
Now, the browns appear to be chomping on a newer invasive fish species – round gobies -- helping fueling good survival and fishing, says Brad Eggold, DNR fisheries supervisor for southern Lake Michigan.
“One of the things we’re finding is the trout species are less discriminating when it comes to food, compared to Chinook,” he says.
“We know from stomach samples they really go after round gobies and we know there are a lot of gobies. That could be why we are seeing really good survival of the fish and good condition.”
Alewives are key forage items for Chinook, and populations of the invasive species are at near-historic lows since they became ubiquitous in the lake in the 1950s.
“We’ve really seen an uptick in brown trout fishing probably in the last 10 years, primarily in bigger harbors like Milwaukee and Racine and Sheboygan,” he says. Winter fishing in the mouths of harbors has been particularly popular, he says.
Lake Michigan fishing has been going strong this summer. “The numbers and variety of fish anglers have been catching, particularly in the last four weeks or so, has been excellent,” Eggold says. “We’ve settled into a pretty good summer pattern. The warm weather and winds have pushed the warmer surface water out into the lake, bringing cooler water temperatures closer to shore and making it easier to catch salmon and trout.”
The temperatures have really concentrated the fish in narrow bands, making them more accessible for anglers, especially those fishing from shore.