Steve Thibodeau wasn’t sure why he’d missed out on catching two hefty muskellunge during a recent trip to Glazier Lake, but he was taking no chances.
One quickly threw the hook. Another made it all the way to the boat before it flopped out of the net.
So when he headed back to the lake on Sept. 22, he examined the 10-inch-long orange Believer lure he’d been using and gave it the once-over.
“It just happened that morning that I sharpened my hooks on that lure,” the Fort Kent angler said.
That morning turned into one he’ll long remember, as Thibodeau ended up hooking another monster muskie.
This one, he caught, with the help of his girlfriend, Stacey Plourde.
And this one was a true record-breaker, the largest muskellunge ever recorded in Maine.
Thibodeau’s state-record fish weighed 31.69 pounds and was 48 inches long. It had a girth of 22.5 inches. It was weighed on certified scales by Jim Albert at Paradis Shop & Save in Fort Kent and was observed by two other witnesses.
His muskie topped the previous record — a 31.02-pounder that measured 46 inches — caught by Jeff Albert of Madawaska. Albert caught his fish while ice fishing on March 24, 2007.
Thibodeau said using the orange deep-diving lure was a switch for him.
“I never use that lure too much,” he said. “I usually fish in the rivers, in the shallows. That lure is for deep. I usually only go to Glazier when the water’s shallow in the rivers.”
After hooking and losing two fish a week before he caught the record-breaker, Thibodeau was confident when he returned to the big lake in T8 R10.
“I had a pretty good feeling I was going to get a hit on it,” Thibodeau said. “You get a lot of movement on that lure and it gets down pretty deep.”
Thibodeau figures the lure was running at about 20 or 25 feet in between 25 and 35 feet of water when he felt the fish strike.
“Usually, when you hook onto muskies, they just grab on it and stay right there,” he said. “Most of the time if amateurs go with me, who haven’t caught one, they’ll say, ‘Aw, I’m stuck on bottom.’”
This fish, however, didn’t hunker down. It didn’t feel like bottom.
Instead, it ran.
“The first pull it pulled real, real hard,” Thibodeau said. “The second time it pulled so hard that my reel broke right off my pole.”
Hauling in a record-setting muskie isn’t easy under any circumstances. It’s especially difficult when your reel is in your lap.
Thibodeau adapted, relied on the boat’s momentum to tire the fish.
“Usually, my first instinct when hooking one is to shut the motor off,” he said. “This one here I kept the motor running.”
Eventually — after about 400 or 500 feet of trolling over the next 15 or 20 minutes — the fish tired and moved to the surface. Then Thibodeau reeled it in and Plourde netted it.
“Once I got him in the boat I was like, ‘Holy geez. This thing is huge,” Thibodeau said.
Still, he wasn’t sure what the state record was, and didn’t spend much time thinking about it.
“Until I got home,” he said. “People started saying, ‘I bet it’s close to the record.’”
Thibodeau said he regularly enters the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby, which is held on the St. John River and its tributaries, including Glazier Lake, each August.
During tourney time, however, his luck hasn’t been so good: He has yet to finish in the money during the derby.
“I haven’t won any prizes at all,” he said. “It seems like I always catch the big ones just before or just after the derby.”
One year, in fact, he caught a nice muskie a month before the derby and his picture with the fish ended up being used as a promotional poster for the event.
Now, however, Thibodeau has bragging rights that even winning his hometown derby wouldn’t have produced.
He’s the state record holder. For now.
“I spoke to a lot of people who have been fishing for years,” Thibodeau said. “They say if I caught this one this size, there are bigger ones in there.”
And you can bet Thibodeau will be out there, trying to catch them.
He quickly took a trip to Cabela’s to replace his broken reel, and he has plans to add at least one more orange Believer lure to his arsenal.
On his last trip to Glazier Lake, he pointed out, he nearly lost his lucky lure.
This time, there was no fish attached to the hook. It was, in fact, bottom. And the fishing line broke.
After lamenting his loss for a minute, he decided to turn around to see if the lure floated to the surface.
Even though he still has that lure … and its identical twin … he’s not sure that’s enough to carry him through the next fishing season.
“I’ve got two,” he said. “I’ll probably buy another one.”
Youth deer regulation changed
The folks from the Washington County Conservation Association checked in this week with an important reminder for those who enjoy taking kids out on Youth Deer Day.
In past years, the state’s junior hunters were essentially given an automatic doe permit on their own special day, and kids across the state could choose to shoot either a buck or a doe.
Not any more.
As the WCCA points out, if you’re hunting in a Wildlife Management District where no any-deer permits have been allotted for the regular firearms season, children hunting on Youth Deer Day — Oct. 24 this year — must follow that rule and target only deer with antlers.
It’s important for hunters and the adults who are accompanying them afield to realize that and to avoid breaking the state’s fish and game laws.
In the zones where any-deer permits were allotted — WMDs 15-17, 20-26 and 29 — Youth Deer Day participants will be allowed to shoot a deer of either gender.
The state allotted a total of 45,385 any-deer permits this year, and hunting in 18 of the state’s 29 Wildlife Management Districts will be “bucks-only.”
Youth Deer Day is open to youngsters who hold a junior hunting license. They must be in the presence of a parent or guardian or in the presence of an adult who is at least 18 years old and has either a valid Maine hunting license or completed a hunter education course. The adult is not allowed to possess a firearm while accompanying the youth hunter.
In 2008, 509 deer were taken by youngsters on Youth Deer Day.