Fish tale lives on: Grindle’s record ’58 togue still a keeper

Posted Aug. 12, 2011, at 5:18 p.m.

When the BDN shared news and a photo of Ryan Costain’s 16.5-pound togue in Thursday’s editions, we were confident that two things would happen.

First, we figured plenty of people would take a gander at the bragging-sized lake trout. They did, with nearly 10,000 Internet views as of Friday morning at bangordailynews.com and an undetermined (but surely larger) number of page views in our printed paper.

And second, we were sure that it wouldn’t take long before someone started talking about Hollis Grindle.

If you’re an avid angler in these parts, you’ve likely run across Grindle’s name. In fact, since 1958, every time an angler has looked at the list of state record fish, they’ve found out that Maine’s top togue was caught by the Ellsworth angler.

That fish was a behemoth, a 43-inch, 31.5-pounder that has never officially been topped.

And it didn’t take long before an online reader posted a comment referring to that record, pointing out that Costain’s fish was barely half as big as Grindle’s standard-bearer.

That doesn’t reflect negatively on Costain’s fish of a lifetime, of course. His Phillips Lake togue was magnificent. It does, however, put things into a little clearer context.

And it sent us scrambling into our archives, where librarians Charlie Campo and Jill Marston unearthed the original story that heralded Grindle’s epic catch. It appeared on Aug. 4, 1958, and was the lead story on the front page of the BDN.

The story, written by longtime BDN Executive Sports Editor Bud Leavitt, and an accompanying photo, are up on our website for your perusal. If you haven’t seen it yet, or can’t access the web, here’s a bit of what Leavitt had to say:

Grindle was fishing Beech Hill Pond with pal Bernard Lynch. “Lynch broke the ice by landing the day’s first fish, a 9½-pound lake trout,” Leavitt reported. “The two fishermen were trolling with deep rigging, lead-core lines, 30-foot monofilament leaders with bait harnessed to a number two sewing hook.

“Grindle felt his line go taut in 60 feet of water opposite ‘The Ledges’ and in an area where deep-trollers often find the end of the rainbow,” Leavitt wrote. “‘I couldn’t move this thing, so naturally, I figured I was fast to the State of Maine,’” Grindle told the reporter.

Grindle said the fish was so strong, that even with the outboard motor running, the fish changed the boat’s course of travel. “‘We cut the motor and I hung on,’” Grindle told Leavitt.

“‘I never hurried him, figuring I had the day to fish and this rascal had a solid hook in his jaw,’” Grindle said at the time.

When the fish tired, after about a half hour, Lynch slid the net under the record-setter and hauled it aboard.

“The weight of the fish was so great, even in the face of tender handling, the aluminum framework forming the hoop of the net was bent and bowed up like Tonto’s favorite bow,” Leavitt wrote.

“There is no question of Grindle’s grand slam setting a Maine record,” Leavitt correctly stated. “It smashed the season’s previous highs [for all species], a 23-pound brown at Sebago and a 24-pound Moosehead laker, with poundage to spare.”

Leavitt seemed surprised that such a large fish had come out of such a small piece of water, and pointed out that the veteran anglers had enjoyed a lot of good luck at Beech Hill that summer.

“Grindle’s feat out of 1,351-acre Beech Hill climaxes a fine season for himself and his partner, Lynch,” Leavitt wrote. “They have boated over 30 fish between them at Beech Hill this summer. But today’s dandy was a hat-hoister.”

In March of 2008, Bill Maynard Jr. issued the most serious recent challenge to the Grindle record when he hauled a 41-inch togue out of Moosehead Lake. After maxing out scales with a 30-pound limit, Maynard thought it was a potential record-setter and scrambled to find a place to weigh his catch.

By the time he found a suitable certified scale, five hours later, the fish weighed “just” 29.67 pounds. It’s not hard to believe that dozens of similar near-misses have occurred over the last half century.

In August 2008, to commemorate their dad’s feat, three of Hollis Grindle’s sons led a 21-member fishing party that headed out on Beech Hill Pond on the 50th anniversary of that record-setting day. The largest fish anyone caught was a salmon that weighed about 2½ pounds.

Hollis Grindle died in 1991, at the age of 85.

And today, we hoist our hats, as Leavitt suggested, to a record that remains a keeper, even after all these years.

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