July 16, 2010

A world record for Salmon-a-Rama? So far*, so good

Roger Hellen, left, and Joe Miller with world record* trout caught at Salmon-a-Rama

With any luck, Salmon-a-Rama pulled in a world record fish today -- although it will be a world record with an asterisk for Racine's 30-year fishing competition.

Roger Hellen of Franksville brought the brown trout in this morning, and it weighed in at 41.15 pounds on Salmon-a-Rama's scale, just under the world record of 41 pounds, 7 ounces, caught in Michigan last year.

But Hellen, who's been fishing "my whole life," and his fishing partner Joe Miller took the trophy fish to Brossman's Meat Market in Racine, where it was weighed on a certified scale. At Brossman's the fish clocked in at 41 pounds, 8 ounces -- enough to claim the world record at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association. If it holds up, it will be both the state and world record holder -- although its weight at Salmon-a-Rama will still be less because of the differences in scales.

Nonetheless, it will be Salmon-a-Rama's record fish as well. Up until now, the largest fish caught during our competition was a 37.4 lb. lake trout landed in 1997.

Hellen and Miller didn't appear concerned as they showed off the fish Friday night at Salmon-a-Rama, where it had been drawing a crowd while sitting in the glass cooler all day. Surrounded by photographers, Hellen calmly told and re-told the story of how the fish was landed, near Wind Point from their boat, the Get Hooked.

"It was just a normal, everyday thing," he said.

A TV reporter asked, "Was there anything unusual about landing it?"

"Well, it's a really big fish," Hellen said. Pressed, he added that it took about half an hour to land.

"What was your first reaction?" the TV reporter asked.

"Holy shit," Hellen said.

"How about something for TV?" the reporter pressed, seeking an FCC-friendly sound byte.

"Holy shit," Hellen said again.

"Who did you call first?" the reporter asked. Hellen gave the name of a friend.

"And what did he say?" the reporter asked.

"Holy shit," Hellen said.

The reporter pressed on: "There must be bigger fish out there. Are you gonna catch them?"

"Probably not," Hellen said. "You go out and do your thing. I just got lucky."

Hellen's fish is almost twice as big as the second-place fish on the leaderboard, a 22 lb., 4 ounce brown trout caught by Craig Kelliher of Menomenee Falls. Of course, both will have to sweat another couple of days; the fishing contest doesn't wind up until 11 a.m. Sunday. Top prize this year is $10,000.

Craig Bender, Salmon-a-Rama co-chair, said the fishing has been "outstanding" this year, "particularly the offshore angling." After falling on tough times in recent years -- when it went from a two-weekend fishing competition and music festival to a shorter Big Fish Bash and now, again back as Salmon-a-Rama, but without the festival -- Bender said the number of entrants has held up. The nine-day Salmon-a-Rama has about 1,300 entered this year: 1,000 on boats, 200 shore fishermen, 50 youth and 50 kayakers. They're competing for a total of about $25,000 in cash prizes.

Salmon-a-Rama's leaderboards are online HERE.

Jim Snopek of Raymond, with his 12.25 lb. Lake Trout
Snopek leads the Master Angler competition with a total of 63.05 lbs.:
Rainbow, 12.25; Brown, 19.8; Lake, 12.25; Chinook, 13.95; Coho, 4.8.

 Dan Hendricks of Racine with 12.55 Rainbow, which leads its division

Bobby Kroes, 14, of Racine, with his 17.55 lb. Brown Trout

Everyone wanted to get a picture of the potential world record Brown Trout