Ice fisherman catches near world-record ‘monster’ lake trout; how he did it

Barry Larson shows off his 38-pound lake trout, which just missed the ice fishing world record.
Barry Larson shows off his 38-pound lake trout, which just missed the ice fishing world record. Photo: Wayne Neally via Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle

Through 12 inches of clear ice on Clearwater West Lake in Ontario, Canada, Barry Larson could see the huge lake trout he had hooked and fought for about 10 minutes, now the question was how to pull it up through the hole in the ice.

“We could see it circling through the ice,” the Duluth, Minnesota, fisherman told the Duluth News Tribune. “It looked like a monster.”

Larson was fishing with five friends on the lake near Arikokan when he hooked the behemoth by jigging a half-ounce Power Bait tube jig half tipped with a shiner minnow.

Getting the lake trout’s head into the hole in the ice was going to be difficult, so instead, Larson waited patiently.

“He finally swam [past] the hole, so I grabbed my gaff and gaffed him in the tail,” Larson told the Tribune.

Larson asked a friend, Jim Torkelson, to help, so he also gaffed the fish in the tail, and together they managed to pull it up through the ice.

“It was such an awesome and strong fish,” Larson told the Tribune. “It was kind of a thrill.”

The fishermen used a hand-held digital scale to weigh the fish on the ice. It was a whopping—albeit an unofficial—39.8 pounds. Three days later, Larson weighed the lake trout on a certified scale at Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle shop near Duluth. The official weight was exactly 38 pounds.

Who knows how much weight the fish might have lost in three days due to dehydration. Had it been weighed on a certified scale right away, it might have contended for an ice fishing world record. As it was, the fish was close.

According to the Tribune, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame lists the world record for lake trout caught through the ice at 40 pounds. That fish was 44 inches long. Larson’s lake trout was 45 1/2 inches.

John Chalstrom of Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle told the Tribune he had never seen a fish as big as Larson’s. It was the same for Wayne Neally, who has been fishing out of Clearwater West Lodge for 35 years.

“It’s the biggest lake trout I ever saw,” Neally, whose biggest was a 27-pounder, told the Tribune.

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