For the past week or so avid anglers have been ogling a photo of New Hampshire’s state record lake trout, a 37-pounder that was recently hauled out of Big Diamond Pond, a tiny piece of water that only covers about 180 acres.
The lake trout, or “togue,” as Mainers would call it, was also the biggest ever caught in New England.
Back here in the Pine Tree State, conversations quickly turned to our own state record for the species: Hollis Grindle’s 1958 togue that measured 43 inches long and weighed 31 pounds, 8 ounces. He caught that fish during the heat of the summer, rather than during the winter through the ice.
Grindle caught his fish while trolling at Beech Hill Pond, which at 1,351 acres is much larger than Big Diamond Pond but still much smaller than most of Maine’s premier togue lakes known for their deep, cold water.
As you might expect, the BDN gave a fair amount of ink to Grindle’s catch in a story that ran on Aug. 4 of that year. Longtime executive sports editor Bud Leavitt, who handled the outdoor beat back then, spoke to the Ellsworth angler and shared his tale with BDN readers.
And since all of us fishermen love a good fish tale — even one that’s 62 years old — here’s Leavitt’s account of the epic day.
Grindle was fishing with friend Bernard Lynch, Leavitt reported.
“Lynch broke the ice by landing the day’s first fish, a 9½-pound lake trout. The two fishermen were trolling with deep rigging, lead-core lines, 30-foot monofilament leaders with bait harnessed to a number two sewing hook,” Leavitt wrote. “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.”
But Grindle wasn’t even sure he had hooked a fish.
“I couldn’t move this thing, so naturally, I figured I was [stuck] fast to the State of Maine,” Grindle said.
Eventually, he figured out he had a whopper of a fish on the other end of his line. Even with the outboard motor running, the fish was strong enough to change the boat’s direction of travel.
“We cut the motor, and I hung on,” Grindle said. “I never hurried him, figuring I had the day to fish and this rascal had a solid hook in his jaw.”
A half-hour later, after an epic battle, the fishermen netted the togue and hauled it aboard.
“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.”
Grindle died in 1991, at age 85. On Aug. 3, 2008, exactly 50 years after Grindle set his record, a group of 21 anglers in 10 boats returned to the pond.to commemorate the event with a day of fishing.
The largest fish caught that day was a 2½-pound landlocked salmon.
The Maine record has stood ever since, with relatively few reported close calls as would-be record-setters wound up just a bit shy of eclipsing Grindle’s mark.
Among the more well-known is the 29.67-pounder that Bill Maynard Jr. hauled out of Moosehead Lake back in 2009.
It took Maynard five hours to get that fish to a certified scale, which led many to believe it had dried out enough to cost him the record.
“Everybody who knows fish tells me that one was 34 pounds, anyway [when it came up through the ice],” Maynard said at the time. “But like I said, he just bled and drained [for hours before it was weighed on an official scale].”