For Eric Haataja of West Allis, Dec. 16, 2011 had a familiar look and feel.
As he does about 50 times a year, the fishing guide and television show host launched his boat at McKinley Marina and motored a short distance into the Milwaukee harbor.
And like most late fall and winter days, the fishing – especially for brown trout – was excellent.
“There’s a reason we call it a world class fishery,” said Haataja, 40. “There’s no other place that offers this kind of access to these kind of fish.”
Haataja and fellow angler Adam Wisowaty of Kenosha had caught and released more than two dozen brown trout from late morning to early afternoon.
Two fish, according to Haataja’s estimates, were over 20 pounds.
When Haataja made another cast and hooked another big fish, he wasn’t surprised.
But when the fish rose to the surface, normality ceased.
“Huge,” Haataja said. “Easily bigger than anything I had caught that season.”
After several minutes of to-and-fro, the brown trout was at boatside; Wisowaty netted it and hoisted it into the boat.
Haataja was prepared for the moment. He laid the fish next to a tape measure supplied by the International Game Fish Association and snapped several photos.
The fish was 97 centimeters long (38 inches). Haataja estimates the fish weighed 30 pounds.
Then he held it for one more photo and placed the fish back in the water. The fish swam away strongly, Haataja said.
Haataja and Wisowaty allowed time for a high-five. Then it was back to fishing.
“That was the biggest brown of the season for me,” Haataja said. “But I’m not kidding. A bigger one could have come on the next cast.”
In the following days, though, Haataja filed an application for the fish in the All Tackle Length division of the International Game Fish Association.
The division was started two years ago by the organization as a catch-and-release category. Anglers are required to photograph the fish on a special IGFA tape measure.
The fish “must be measured by anglers at the site of capture and released so that it swims away on their own and in good condition,” according to IGFA literature.
Haataja is owner of Big Fish Guide Service of West Allis and co-host of “Big Fish 365,” a fishing show that airs on Fox Sports Wisconsin. He has filmed several shows to highlight the brown trout fishing in the Milwaukee harbor.
And he was aware of the new IGFA catch-and-release division, as well as the standing record, a 28-inch (71 cm) fish entered by James Schmid of Fort Collins, Colo.
That fish, too, had been caught in the Milwaukee harbor.
Haataja’s application was confirmed Tuesday as the IGFA world record for brown trout in the All Tackle Length division.
Haataja’s catch-and-release record further substantiates the reputation of the Wisconsin waters of southern Lake Michigan as a world-class brown trout fishing destination.
The All Tackle (by weight) record for the species was caught by Roger Hellen of Franksville off Racine in July 2010. That fish weighed 41.5 pounds and is recognized as the world record by both the IGFA and the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.
Haataja said one of the best parts of the Milwaukee-area brown trout fishery is its availability.
“You can catch these fish from shore a good part of the year,” Haataja said. “And even small boats can get in the harbor and have outstanding action.”
Haataja caught the record fish on a hand-made hair jig. The lure featured pearl tinsel tied on a 1 /8-ounce jig. He was fishing with a light spinning rod, light line and a fluorocarbon leader.
He fishes the harbor most from late June through early August and from November through March.
Haataja said 2011 and early 2012 was exceptional. He and his clients boated three brown trout over 30 pounds.
“I’m expecting this year to be just as good,” Haataja said. “There are more big fish out there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the record broken.”
Via: Journal Sentinel