Atikokan continues to host world record contenders, thanks to Clearwater and White Otter lakes, evidenced by the recent catch of two lake trout which weighed between 38 and 40 lbs.
Duluth’s Barry Larson was a guest of Browns’ Clearwater West Resort, Thursday, January 21, when he snagged a giant lake trout, which measured 45½ inches long, with a 28-inch girth. It was an exciting 10 minute battle, that involved Larson and his fishing buddies using a gaff to hoist it onto the ice.
The fish was caught at a 58 foot depth, using a 10 lb test line, with a spoon and minnow.
“We could see it circling through the ice. It looked like a monster,” Larson told the Duluth News Tribune.
Catching monsters like these while ice-fishing is “an annual occurrence,” says resort owner Barry Brown. Another client, Mark Anderson of Luck, Wisconsin, caught a 44¼ in long, 27 inch wide trout three days after Larson’s.
The tricky part is getting an accurate, certifiable weight: Larson’s weighed 39.8 lbs on the resort’s scales, but by the time the anglers got to Atikokan Foodland the next day, the weight on the store’s meat scales was 37 lbs. Considering that a gallon of water weighs over 9 lbs, Brown said the water lost in picking up and setting down the fish, let alone moisture loss over time, means that “two to four cups of water is a terrific loss.”
Anderson’s big fish was slightly smaller in size to Larson’s, but fared better in the final weighing in on the Foodland scales, weighing in at over 38 lbs.
Brown said because struggling to find a certifiably accurate weigh scales is always a scramble, he is purchasing a more reliable one for the resort (he currently has a digital scale), which should ensure better accuracy and convenience. Brown said he will ask the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin, to send someone up periodically to assess the scales to ensure continued accuracy.
Brown’s client Earl Palmquist of International Falls caught what remains the ice-fishing world record trout at Clearwater in 1987. His weighed in at 40lbs on the nose at the MNR office in Atikokan. It was 44 inches long. Brown estimates that given the moisture loss in transport and delay, that fish may have initially been 43-44 lbs.
Through the decades, the mount of Palmquist’s catch has been displayed at most of the hospitality businesses throughout International Falls.
This winter’s two big fish have once again stirred media attention. In 2013, when another Browns’ client, Bruce Soderberg of Duluth, snagged the Hall of Fame title for the largest catch-and-release-ice fishing record with a 46 incher (weight was not confirmed) caught on White Otter Lake.
Naturally all the buzz created in the fishing community by these type of catches doesn’t hurt Browns’ or Atikokan, notes Brown, who said Larson, who is a regular client, has re-booked for second trip this winter.
After nearly 40 years on the attached lakes of Clearwater West and White Otter, Brown (who spent a decade prior to that with the fisheries division of the MNR), said the fisheries are becoming more productive, with larger fish. In fact, he wouldn’t be surprised if a 100 pounder isn’t lurking in those waters: A trout of that weight was caught in Lake Superior and Brown said “there is no reason why there wouldn’t be some here.”
There are at least two reasons for that, he says. One is that more anglers are practicing catch and release, and that Clearwater (about 9.000 acres, to a depth of 471 feet), and White Otter (about 25,000 acres to a depth of about 33 feet) offer an extremely fertile food supply for trout. Brown recalls the University of Toronto testing the lakes 25 years ago, as part of research of lake trout fisheries across the province. Lake bottom sampling showed the waters hosted ten times the amount of food – particular bugs found in hatching areas which baby trout feed on – of any other lakes tested in Ontario, he said.
“Nothing has changed, only the numbers [of fish being caught] have actually improved,” since that study, said Brown, adding that conservation guidelines and the technology used to locate the fish, have also helped.
And it’s all the ‘big fish buzz’ is all good for the resort and the community, Brown adds. “It’s good for Atikokan and certainly Fort Frances” when anglers travel to this area on a quest to catch a monster. “It creates a lot of spin-off.”