On Friday afternoon, Bill Maynard Jr. was back on Moosehead Lake, fishing, hoping, and wondering what might have been.
On Tuesday, you see, he hooked and landed a fish that many told him might be a state record. He tried to get the fish weighed … twice … and finally found a scale that could accurately measure such a hefty specimen on his third try.
By that time, 5½ hours had passed, and his fish had begun to shrink.
There would be no state record.
But would there have been had he acted sooner?
“Hey, it was a great fish,” Maynard said via cell phone from his favorite fishing grounds on Friday. “[You can play] could have been, would have been.”
For the record books, the 40-year-old angler’s massive lake trout was officially 41 inches long and weighed 29.67 pounds.
That fell a bit short of Hollis Grindle’s 1958 Beech Hill Pond behemoth, which weighed 31½ pounds. Maynard’s fish was, however, a Moosehead record; according to officials at the Moosehead Lake Chamber of Commerce, the previous record togue was a 28.75-pounder caught in 1961.
So officially, Maynard’s fish came up a bit light for the statewide books.
Unofficially, the good-natured Maynard has his doubts.
“Everybody who knows fish tells me that one was 34 pounds, anyway [when it came up through the ice],” Maynard said. “But like I said, he just bled and drained [for hours before it was weighed on an official scale].”
Maynard said he typically fishes Moosehead 12 to 15 times a winter, and when he and a buddy hauled the monster togue up through the ice, he was pleased but not ecstatic.
The battle lasted about 30 minutes, he said, but the duo had no trouble pulling the exhausted fish through the 10-inch hole.
“I thought he was about a 25-pound fish,” said Maynard, who explained he wasn’t even thinking in terms of state records at that point. “I hadn’t caught one that big. We fished for another three and a half hours, because usually those big ones run in pairs, and we were hoping maybe someone might hook into the other one.”
Then he headed ashore to get the fish weighed.
“You could visually see that the fish’s stomach had shrunk by the time we got it on the scales in Rockwood,” Maynard said.
In Rockwood, Maynard ran into his first problem: The UPS scale he used at Moosehead Bait and Tackle indicated that the fish was larger than 30 pounds, but Maynard wasn’t sure how accurate it was, and needed to find a certified scale that could accommodate the massive fish.
“Then we brought it to Greenville,” he said.
In Greenville, at Indian Hill Trading Post, Maynard discovered a trend: That scale had a 30-pound limit … and the fish was too big.
“You’d think the Moosehead region would have a scale that’s over 30 pounds,” he said with a chuckle.
Then Maynard hit the road again, still searching for a scale that would tell him the fish’s true weight.
“Finally, five hours later, I got him on the scales [at Countryside Meats in Dover-Foxcroft] and he weighed 29.67 pounds,” Maynard said.
Peter Bourque, a longtime biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife who now serves as the department’s director of fisheries and hatcheries, says Maynard’s fish probably lost some weight, but not enough to cost the angler a record.
“I’d be pretty certain to say it wouldn’t [lose] that much,” Bourque said. “I would guess it would not have lost that amount of weight in that amount of time. Sometimes you do get a fish that would regurgitate a lot of stuff from its stomach when it comes up [and that could add more weight].”
Bourque said the department would like to do research to see how old the lake trout is, and said that some very old fish have been caught in recent years.
“I saw fish that were fin-clipped by us [before stocking, in order to determine age when they’re caught], that were 35 years old [when they were caught],” Bourque said. “I can’t help but believe that this fish is upwards of 40 years or more.”
On Friday, Maynard was back fishing on Moosehead with his brother-in-law, who landed a 10-pounder just before Maynard gave his on-ice interview.
“I think all of the stars kind of aligned for us,” he said.
And he said he’ll continue to fish his own lake, hoping for an even bigger fish to stop by for a visit.
“I’ve heard lots of stories from scuba divers who’ve seen things [in Moosehead],” Maynard said. “There’s bigger fish. People aren’t set up to catch fish that big. They break you off and you don’t know how big it was.”
And if the divers say there are big togue still swimming in Moosehead, Maynard will take his chances.
“They’re out there,” he said. “I’m still fishing for them even though I caught the big one. I think they’re still out there to be caught by somebody.”
Hoehlein offering bass class
A year ago veteran bass angler Ken Hoehlein decided to share some of his hard-earned lessons with others and take bass to class.
This year, buoyed by that experience, Hoehlein has branched out … and anglers from two local communities will benefit.
Hoehlein will offer “Bass Fishing in Maine” adult education classes in Bangor and Ellsworth beginning this week. Both classes will run for eight consecutive weeks.
Ellsworth classes will be held on Tuesdays, Bangor classes are on Thursdays. All classes last from 6:30-9 p.m.
Hoehlein said last year’s students at a Bangor Adult Education class seemed to enjoy themselves.
“They were really excited,” Hoehlein said. “We give away prizes and stuff, and it was just a good, fun deal. I’m really looking forward to doing it again.”
Guest lecturers, including DIF&W fisheries biologist Rick Jordan, who has done plenty of research on Maine bass, will also appear.
Those interested in the Ellsworth class can call 667-6499. Those interested in the Bangor class can call 992-5523.
And if you’re interested in getting a bit of a preview, you can stop by the Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show at the University of Maine in Orono this weekend, where Hoehlein will present a seminar at 12:30 p.m. today.
“It’s [called] ‘Everything You Wanted to Know About Bass Fishing,’ and I’ve got 45 minutes to do that,” Hoehlein joked.
And while you’re talking bass with Hoehlein, you may want to stop and visit the Bangor Bass Club in the pool area.
The club is running a hands-on Casting Kids program today and Sunday, and plenty of prizes will be awarded to the top young casters.
One more for the show
While we’re talking about the Eastern Maine Sportsman’s Show, I hope you’ll take the time to stop by our Bangor Daily News booth when you visit.
I’ve been told by our in-house show guru, Fred Stewart, that there will be plenty of prizes on hand for current BDN subscribers, including our popular camouflage can covers, and a brand new offering, BDN fishing bobbers.
And if you’re not a bobber-ing kind of guy, I hope you’ll take the time to enter our “Win a Drift Boat Trip” drawing, which (as always) is free.
The trip is a full-day fly-fishing trip down the East Outlet of the Kennebec River with guide Dan Legere, proprietor of the Maine Guide Fly Shop.
You and I (along with Legere) will spend Father’s Day, June 21, on the water, and I can guarantee you we’ll have a good time.
If you need more convincing, you can learn more about Legere, his shop, his fellow guides and the rivers they fish at the show: We have a copy of the new DVD that covers all those topics, and we’ll be showing it at the BDN booth to get people revved up about the contest … not that they generally need any more revving.
In between showings of Legere’s DVD, we’ll be showing a collection of some of my favorite “Going Outdoors” segments, which Dave Simpson and I produce for ABC-7 and FOX-22.
Will you learn how to hunt or fish better by watching my videos? No. Will you chuckle? I hope so.
But you’ll never know until you stop by.
See you at the show!