By Jerry Newman w/Joe Seeberger
Congratulations to Michigan angler Joe Seeberger for catching the new Modern Day Muskellunge World Record. His behemoth 58-pound muskie from Lake Bellaire, Michigan on October 13th 2012, set a new muskie fishing mark. The Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program (MDMWRP) has waited over seven years for a fish of this caliber, and we are very excited to certify such a grand fish as our first official entry. Larry Ramsell, the world's foremost Muskie Historian and founder of the MDMWRP said; “when I viewed this incredible fish with my own eyes, I instantly knew this would be the bona fide record that we could finally begin to rally around”.
The official weight was an even 58-pounds. The bump-board length measurement tallied a full 58-inches, and the big muskie sported an impressive 29-inch girth. The fish actually weighed a little over 58 pounds, but due to certified scale requirements, the weight had to be rounded down for acceptance as the Michigan State and Modern Day World Record.
The equipment that withstood this ultimate test was a 7-foot medium-action G Loomis GL3 spinning rod, a Pflueger Supreme spinning reel spooled with 200 feet of brand new 8-pound-test Seagar fluorocarbon line tied directly a size-1 Gamakatsu Octopus-style single hook. The bait was a live 7 1/4-inch sucker minnow lightly hooked through the nose, with one small single split-shot pinched to the line roughly two feet above the bait.
Serious fisherman have long known that big water equals big fish potential for almost any species, and to give you an idea of the kind of water it takes to produce a fish of this caliber; this Antrim County interconnected lake system totals more than 35,000 acres, Torch Lake alone is a whopping 18,770 acres (any inland lake over 15,000 acres is considered immense), and at 19 miles in length, it is the longest lake in the entire state of Michigan.
An Epic Catch:
Joe Seeberger, his brother Chuck, and good friend Jason Orbeck were greeted with snow showers when they arrived at their Bellaire Lake cabin on Wednesday evening, October 10th 2012. Their quarry for the fishing trip was the trophy smallmouth bass that are known to inhabit the lake.Other friends in their party were also fishing the lake, and everyone was having a fun and successful go of it with many smallmouth bass being caught and released by the group during the first days of their trip. One of the bass they released was a dandy 5-pounds 15-ounce specimen.
That fateful muskie morning the trio set out in Joe’s boat in the middle of a small hailstorm just before 8 a.m. It was cloudy with a good chop on the water, and according to Joe,” perfect fishing conditions”. The day started normally with Joe’s boat partners catching a couple of bass on live bait while Joe was casting with an artificial jerk bait style lure. However, Joe decided to switch to what was working and almost immediately hooked up with a fish at about 8:30 a.m. “I felt the hit and set the hook within seconds, and knew right away this was a much bigger fish than the smallmouth’s we had been catching”.
“I remember that she started coming directly at the boat swimming near the surface right away, she looked so big, almost fake like the Jaws movie shark. She swam towards the boat coming to within 5 feet or so, and then must have realized something was wrong because she shot away like a torpedo going airborne in kind of a sideways flip about 10 feet out from the boat.”
“It was just crazy how big this fish looked then, and we immediately recognized it as a huge muskie”. They were all surprised that the fish did become unpinned during that awe-inspiring jump, and as the fight ensued, she continued to haul and veer anyway she pleased, while they chased after her in hot pursuit with the bow-mounted trolling motor.
About a half an hour into the fight, feeling they might have something very special on at the other end of the line, they decided to Google “Michigan state record muskie” on a smartphone and found that Kyle Anderson’s 50 lbs. 8 oz. fish was recently caught in 2009 from Torch Lake, which is easily navigated to from Lake Bellaire. They all agreed this fish was close to the current state record length of 56 inches, and mutually decided that if they were lucky enough to get the fish in the boat, they were going to keep it as a personal trophy.
The giant fish had other plans, and made multiple runs between the 5-foot shallows and the depths of the 107-foot deep clear lake while they continued with the cat and mouse chase. With Joe always on the rod, and everyone working as a cohesive unit, they did an impressive job, not over pressuring the fish on light tackle, yet staying close enough to avoid getting “spooled”. Joe commented; “At least half of the spool (100-yards) of line was always left on my reel”, and he unselfishly gave much of the credit for this catch to his boat partners for helping maintain the optimal distance away from the fish during the fight.
After about an hour of this intense tug-of-war between man and fish, Joe was getting tired from the constant pressure of the doubled over rod, his arms began to ache and only keeping good ergonomic posture kept him in the ring trading punches with this heavyweight champ. An interesting part of the story is that while tracking the fish in the shallow water, they were all amazed at how well camouflaged the beast was “it was almost invisible” according to Joe, and depending on the angle of the sun and waves, the only way they could identify it’s exact location was spotting the sucker minnow that was still hanging from the corner of her mouth.
Joe was beginning to wonder who was going to win this test of endurance after more than a 1 1/2 hour battle, when his adversary finally began to show signs of fatigue. However, unbeknownst to Joe the plot was only thickening; the next chapter was getting a near 5-foot fish into the boat without the aid of traditional muskie equipment,especially a landing net designed for the job
While the trio of Joe, Chuck, and Jason were skillfully staying one step ahead of the fish, they began to second-guess themselves, and wondered if this 'live log' was perhaps just a big sturgeon. They thought this only because the fish was simply so much larger than any mounted muskie they had seen before. Finally, as the monster's strength began to wane and they were able to get a good look at her through the clear water as she slowly paddled near the boat. There was no more talk of it being a sturgeon, and they were all ready to play it for keeps.
For over an hour and a half their only focus was how to out maneuver this deceptively fast and agile fish, thinking that at any second she might get off and they'd be back to bass fishing with “just another fish story”. The mood in the boat became more serious as they all realized Joe might have a once-in-a-lifetime shot at a record.
|Oops! Two fishing nets meant for bass couldn't hold the Muskie.|
They had been talking off and on wiht their friends Derek Barnes and Tony Mead who were floating nearby in another boat, and after considering their limited options, they devised a plan that would utilize two bass size nets, one that was already in Joe's boat, and one that was tossed over from Derek and Tony. With the nets slipped over each end of the fish as far as they could get them, Chuck and Jason began to lift simultaneously. However, the sheer weight of this monster was simply too great, and the effort only left each man staring at a broken empty net.
Miraculously, the fish managed to stay hooked during this attempt, and now it was time for plan B, which consisted of two life jackets that were tied together in a makeshift cradle, “we figured out pretty quick that they were too buoyant and we would never be able to get them below the water deep enough for a serious attempt.”
Noticing these antics from the other boat, their friends Derek and Tony motored over closer to see what the latest commotion was about, and it was quickly decided that Derek would transfer into Joe’s boat to lend some much-needed assistance. Now these resourceful anglers had another set of hands aboard for plan C, and together they were able to secure a rope around the middle of the almost completely spent fish, then while one grabbed the head, another grabbed the tail, and with the third pulling up on the rope, the fish was finally brought over the gunwale at approximately 10:30 a.m.
|The "Queen is landed!". Tony Mead photo.|
The relief of getting the fish in the boat was short-lived though because once the fishes belly touched the carpet, the bell rang for one final round of desperate combat, and after a few tense moments the men were able to hang onto the still thrashing ultimate muskie prize. All told, it took two hours, four men, two nets, two life jackets, some rope, and all the luck and skill these experienced anglers could muster to subdue this a oversized giant on light gear.
|Time for congratulations and a rest! Tony Mead photo.|
Finally Joe was able to set his rod down and breathe a sigh of relief with his friends. The camaraderie and pride these men experienced that day will undoubtedly be etched in their memories forever. Even though the muskie is considered the fish of 10,000 casts, it only to Joe one well-placed cast to grab the muskielunge brass ring.
Congratulations to you again Joe for this amazing achievement! The Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program committee truly consider it an honor to have such a fine and deserving person wearing this undeniable muskie crown.