The State Record Fish You Might Catch
It’s not every year in Indiana someone catches a state record fish. If they do it’s likely to be some off the wall specimen like the Lake Whitefish record put on the scorecard last year. I know what a lake whitefish is - do you? The state record bluegill was pulled from a pond in 1973. The largemouth bass record is almost 25 years old.
It’s not that fish in Indiana don’t grow as big as they used to grow, it’s that the state record sized fish are unusually sized specimens, perhaps one could call them freaks of nature. How freakish?
The state record flathead catfish was pulled from the White River in 1966 - fifty years ago. Why hasn’t that 79 and a half pound beast been bested in a half century? The most likely answer is because there are no 80 pound catfish swimming in the White River or any other river in Indiana. Chances are there are no walleye in any lake or stream in the Hoosier state larger than the 14.4 pound walleyes (it’s a tie) caught back in the 1970s. Drain every lake, reservoir, pond or other type of water body and gather up all the big largemouth bass. Chances are you won’t find even one of them larger than the current state record weighing 14 pounds, 12 ounces.
The point is, if you want to catch a state record sized fish, your quest could be impossible. If there’s not even one largemouth, catfish, bluegill or other species bigger than the current record living in Hoosier waters, obviously breaking the existing record is not going to happen. There is one species of fish in Indiana that doesn’t fit this mold. Brown trout are found in a few areas around the state but probably more are caught from Lake Michigan than any other body of water. So let’s examine just what it would take to usurp the current Indiana state record brown trout caught in 2006 weighing 29.03 pounds.
Is there such a spectacular specimen swimming in Lake Michigan waters? Almost certainly. Brown trout are imports from Europe. But all brown trout are not created equal. Browns from Germany, though having identical DNA, look a bit different and even behave a bit different than brown trout that evolved over millennia in Ireland or England. Browns that inhabit streams are different than trout living in lakes. These differences are called strains - akin to poodles being different than beagles. Both are dogs, but they are different.
Years ago a strain of brown trout called the Seeforellen from western Europe was brought to the Great Lakes to see if what makes them special overseas would translate into something special here in the Midwest. Oh my goodness, did this work!
What made Seeforellens different was they developed the ability to become anadromous. Instead of staying in the lake or stream in which they were born, they swam downstream and actually adapted to living in saltwater like salmon do. Once in the ocean, their food supply was nearly endless and they grew to monster proportions compared to other strains.
Unlike salmon which die after spawning, brown trout can spawn and then keep living, feeding and growing larger. Before Seeforellen strain browns were stocked in the Great Lakes, most state records hovered in the low 20 pound range. Those records fell quickly through the late 90s and in the the 2000s as huge Seeforellens from early stockings ended up on the hooks of lucky anglers.
The current state record for Illinois is over 36 pounds. The state record for Wisconsin was established a few years ago (and declared a new world record) at 41.5 pounds. Then two weeks later an angler in Michigan wrestled a 41.7 pound Seeforellen out of the Manistee River as it was making it’s fall spawning run. Another world record was set.
The point is, for every state or world record fish there are dozens of “nearly” record sized fish. Lake Michigan gives up a dozen or more thirty-something brown trout each year.
Indiana’s state record brown was a Seeforellen strain fish, but weighed a shade over 29 pounds. The potential record sized fish, probably several of them are out there. Will this be the year one of them swims to Indiana’s corner of the lake and get’s caught?