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St. Clair Shores

When the fish is bigger than the tale

October 31, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Glen Marohn of St. Clair Shores holds the sturgeon he caught Oct. 22 in Lake St. Clair with John Tancredi,in blue, and Bradley Herndon, not pictured.

While many have already pulled their boats out of the water, three St. Clair Shores friends were still out on Lake St. Clair Oct. 22, looking for a good time catching muskellunge.

Glen Marohn had his fishing line in the water near the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club with his friends John Tancredi and Bradley Herndon when they got the surprise of the year.

The trio landed a 71-inch lake sturgeon after almost an hour of fighting — the biggest fish any of them had ever seen in the area.

“I’m 51, been fishing since I was 4 years old, and that’s the biggest thing I’ve ever taken out of this lake,” said Marohn.

“When we first hooked into it, we had no idea. It was, literally, the reel makes a sound, a real loud clicking sound” as it lets out line, he said. “It was going so fast, it made a high-pitched screaming sound. I’m yelling, ‘Hit the boat in neutral!’”

The reel he was using had about 760 feet of line on it and the fish took it all, he said. Measuring the line in front of his home the next day, he said that was almost the length of a city block.

“First of all, we pretty much ran out of line, so we had to … turn the boat around and chase the fish,” he said.

The better part of an hour was spent with the fish coming closer and Marohn reeling the line in, then the fish taking off again, diving for the bottom, and emptying the reel.

“It was like a war zone, like a battle. We didn’t know what it was. When we got it close to the boat, we never saw it — that fish stayed right on the bottom” in 17 feet of water, he said.

“It took a lot of time to get him in,” said Tancredi. “He kept diving for the bottom. I’m just happy the hook held!”

As the friends were able to pull the fish closer to the surface, they saw that it wasn’t going to fit into any fishing net. They grabbed some rope and made a lasso to throw over the lake sturgeon’s tail and Marohn and Tancredi tried to haul it over the side of the boat, a 17-foot Tracker.

But the first try didn’t work — the weight of the fish pulled it right back into the lake.

“I handed the pole back to John, he fought it back to the boat,” Marohn said.

That’s when Marohn got to the back of the boat and wrestled the lasso around the tail once more.

This time they were able to wrangle the fish over the side together.

“It threw me around like a rag doll,” Marohn said. “I’ve got bruises on my shins, on both my legs and a couple on my arms from wrestling this thing.”

Since the trio have a motto of “catch, photo and release” while fishing, they weren’t able to weigh it but thought it could be upwards of 160 pounds. It was 71 inches long.

Lake sturgeon are common in Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River, according to fish biologist Mike Thomas at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources office in Harrison Township, where he is the lake sturgeon coordinator.

But he said most of those fish are about 40-50 inches long.

“One over 70 inches, that’s a big one,” he said. “These fish are really old and slow-growing. If it’s growing at all, it’s growing definitely less than an inch a year.”

Thomas said the fish would definitely be more than 50 years old and could be close to 100.

“How long that fish has been around, that’s pretty amazing,” he said. “When you catch one of these fish and you let it go, it might be around long enough for your grandkids to catch when they grow up, and there aren’t many fish like that around.”

He said a fish that long probably weighed closer to 100 or 120 pounds, but that is still very big for Lake St. Clair.

“Great Lakes people don’t see fish that big very often, and so when they see one, they look really huge,” he said.

The friends also removed two parasitic lampreys from the fish before sending it back to the lake.

“We actually did the fish a favor,” he said. “We didn’t get the measurement around or the weight, that was just too impossible; we wanted to get the fish back in the water as soon as we could.”

Marohn said they couldn’t believe their Nils Master bait and hook held on to such a large fish.

“It’s for any large game fish, but normally sturgeon, they feed off the bottom,” Marohn said. “But sometimes they’ll turn upside down and they’ll come and grab a fish from the top.”

Tancredi said the muskellunge (commonly known as muskie) they had been looking for “will give you a good fight,” but can usually be brought into the boat within 10 minutes or so.

“It’s a harder fight just because it’s more brute strength,” Tancredi said of the sturgeon.

The trio did catch 10 muskellunge that day, too.

“Usually it’s one or two a trip. They were just really active yesterday,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about fishing is, you think you’ve seen it all and then something like this happens.

“It all fell in our favor. That’s not normally what happens.”

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