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While records are meant to be broken, some stand longer than others.
For over 60 years, Hollis Grindle’s state record lake trout, or togue, stood above the rest — both in the record books and in the unforgettable picture of Grindle’s raising his monster 1958 catch aloft after a historic day of fishing on Beech Hill Pond in Otis.
July 2, 2020, has now been cast into Maine fishing history, with angler Erik Poland of Andover bringing in a 39.2 pound togue, more than seven pounds over Grindle’s previous record.
The size of the fish and the time that it took to break this record are impressive enough, but the circumstances that lead to Poland’s success on Lower Richardson Lake in Township C in western Maine have us hooked as well.
“I had a couple of hours to kill,” he told the Bangor Daily News’ John Holyoke. “I thought I’d fish for salmon for awhile, go for a swim, then head home.”
He ended up heading home with more than he bargained for. It’s an example of how history doesn’t just happen, people make it happen, sometimes by being in the right place at the right time and adapting to the unexpected.
“Erik wasn’t even fishing for togue. It just goes to show you to catch this fish of a lifetime, you just have to be on the water,” fisheries biologist Liz Thorndike of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said. “You just have to go fishing.”
Poland may not have been prepared to battle the fish, but he certainly put in some work.
“It felt like two days, but [the fight] was probably an hour or an hour and a half, tops,” Poland told the BDN. “I walked it up to the back of the boat, looked at my 18- to 20-inch net and quickly kicked that to the side. I knew that was going to create even more problems. It was half the size it needed to be. So I just grabbed it by the gill plate and hauled it up over the stern of the boat.”
Poland’s haul, as described to Holyoke, gives us all another opportunity to revisit Grindle’s epic fish story delivered to the BDN’s Bud Leavitt decades ago.
“We cut the motor, and I hung on,” Grindle said at the time. “I never hurried him, figuring I had the day to fish and this rascal had a solid hook in his jaw.”
It’s not hard to picture Poland and Grindle engaged in these long fights years apart.
“I couldn’t move this thing, so naturally, I figured I was [stuck] fast to the State of Maine,” Grindle said.
That story and that fish held fast atop Maine’s fishing records for 62 years, and won’t soon be forgotten. It’s bittersweet to see such a storied record eclipsed, but it’s also a welcome reminder that good records can still be broken and impressive achievements realized at a time when disconcerting benchmarks — like historically high unemployment numbers or spikes in coronavirus numbers — have been all too common.
Things can get better, and good surprises are still possible. But we have to keep fishing.