When Barry Larson, of Duluth, Minn. hooked into a giant lake trout last month on Clearwater West Lake, near Atikokan, Ont., he nearly broke a 30-year-old world record.
And while his catch didn't land him an international record, it at least gave him a good fight — and a story to tell for decades to come.
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In the afternoon of Jan. 21, Larson was fishing alone at a spot called the flats, on Clearwater West.
He told CBC News he was jigging with two rods, watching for fish to show on his electronic sonar unit.
"I had my right pole up about 25-to-30 feet and then the left pole was down at the bottom and I jigged it a few times," he said.
"Then I saw a fish come in kind of in between both poles. I had a white tube jig with a minnow on so I reeled up above the fish and he nailed it."
Larson knew he had a big one on the hook and immediately radioed his friend who was fishing at another spot nearby.
"I might need a hand here ... I have a big one," he shouted into the radio, hoping Jim Torkelson would hear his pleas and come to help him.
A backwards landing
By the time Torkelson arrived, Larson had been battling the laker for five minutes.
"I noticed my other line was shaking and I'd got tangled in the second line," Larson recalled.
"I told Jim to cut the line, and he said 'I ain't got a knife'."
I couldn't get his nose in the hole and he didn't want to come up. - Barry Larson
So, while still fighting the fish, Larson dug a knife out of his pocket and cut the second line.
He said the fish started getting closer and they could see it under the ice.
"It looked like a shark," Larson said.
The fish was getting tired and was running in circles just under the 10-inch hole.
The rough edge on the underside of the hole was causing Larson even more frustration, as it could snap his line.
"Every time the fish would circle, the line would go 'ting' and I'd go, 'no no!," said Larson. "I couldn't get his nose in the hole and he didn't want to come up."
Finally, the fish turned and with his tail stuck in in the hole, it was time to strike using a gaffe, which is a pole with a sharp hook on one end.
"My buddy Jim hurried up and gaffed him about 6-inches from his tail," he said. "And I had a hold of him, so I hurried up and grabbed my gaffe."
Larson was able to reach under the ice and hook the end of the tail as well. They then both pulled the monster trout out of the hole, tail-first.
A lucky fishing hole for giant trout?
"Jim fell over as we pulled it out, and the fish kind of landed on him," Larson said. "But there it was, laying on the ice."
Back at camp that evening, the lake trout weighed 39.8 pound on a digital scale,
The next day the weight was recorded as over 37 pounds on a grocery store scale in Atikokan.
Larson's trout measured 45.5 inches in length, and the girth was 28 inches.
"We are calling it a 40-pounder," he said.
But the trout is not big enough to take the current world record of a 40-pound lake trout landed in 1987 by Earl Palmquist, of International Falls, Minn.. He was also ice-fishing on Clearwater West Lake.
Nevertheless, it's a trophy fish for Larson, who said his giant lake trout will be mounted by a taxidermist.
"The taxidermist skinned it and gave me the meat," said Larson. "I brought it to Kemp's Fishery and they are going to smoke it. But yah, the fish is going on the wall."