Dad’s Record Fish Story by Matt J Bauer

My Dad was a great storyteller. He had a way of telling stories with authenticity and enthusiasm that would entertain anyone that heard them. They all were genuine and real. This one is hard to top. It\’s one for the record…or, rather, I should say that it’s one that set a record…

When the salmon are in their peak migratory run in the rivers along the north shore of Lake Superior each fall, with the right amounts of rain and the right temperatures, the fish move in.

On October 12, 1991, my Dad and I were on the Baptism River at our favorite hole. Dad was fishing from our favorite rock ledge, and I was fishing just downstream from him. Dad hooked this King salmon that took off and rip-snorted around that pool with speed and might, which was typical of these fish. Dad called them “big slobs”. The fish actually wore out my Dad, versus him wearing down the fish. At the time, my dad was in the early stages of emphysema, and while fighting this fish he became winded and let go of his fly rod. The rod disappeared in the river. I threw my line out to try to hook his rod or line, but couldn’t see either one. Suddenly the rod tip appeared out of the water with the line straightening out and the fish still on! It turned and went upriver, causing the rod to stand on end. I hooked his rod, got hold of it with the fish still on, and handed my rod to Dad so I could land the fish for him.

When I was about to land the fish, my landing net in hand, I turned to look at Dad and saw, to my surprise, that he already had another fish on my fly rod!

I quickly netted the first fish and tossed him on the bank and hurried to help Dad with the other fish he had on. With landing net ready, he turned the fish toward me and put the fish right in the net. We both looked at each other and said, “That fish is different.”

After fishing salmon in these rivers for over twenty years at the time, we knew that this fish was not a Chinook Salmon, or more commonly known as the King Salmon. We knew this fish was special because we had never seen one like this before. It was an Atlantic Salmon officially weighing in at 12lbs. 13.5 oz. A new Minnesota State record–a record that still stands today.

The Atlantic salmon was donated to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and is on display at the DNR Headquarters Information Center, at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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