Angler hauls in record lake trout

Aspen Times Staff
Aspen, CO Colorado

GUNNISON ” During the 40 years Don Walker has fished at Blue Mesa Reservoir he’s caught plenty of big lake trout. But none measured up to the one he caught May 23.

Walker, 61, now holds the record for the biggest lake trout caught in Colorado: The fish weighed 50 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 44 1/4 inches long with a girth of 34 3/8 inches, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The record lake trout, also known as a Mackinaw, weighed nearly 4 pounds more than the previous record lake trout caught in 2003 (it weighed 46 pounds 14 ounces and measured 42 1/2 inches long).

“I’ve been fishing over there for a long time, so when it hit I knew I had a big fish on,” Walker said from his home in Florence, in a DOW press release.

Walker and his wife, Paula, were fishing from a boat near Soap Creek in about 40 feet of water. He used a tube jig and was bouncing the lure on the bottom. The technique is known as “jigging.” The temperature of the water at the surface was 53 degrees. Walker explained that lake trout fishing seems to be the best when the surface water temperature is between 50 degrees and 55 degrees.

With his graphite rod rigged with 12-pound test line, Walker fought the fish for 25 minutes before bringing it up to the boat.

“You have to play a fish like that just right or you’ll break the line. The rod was bent double,” Walker said.

His wife netted the fish when it got near the boat.

Ironically, the man who held the record previously was fishing from another boat a short distance away. Larry Cornell of Pueblo, who happens to be Walker’s brother-in-law, watched as the new record Mackinaw was brought to the surface.

“I was there when he caught that one,” Walker said.

Walker weighed his fish in the boat and was surprised to see that it probably weighed 50 pounds. They went to shore and weighed it again to be sure. Then they took it to the Gunnison office of the DOW for an official weigh-in and measurement. A DOW wildlife officer verified that the fish set the new record.

Blue Mesa Reservoir is one of Colorado’s most productive fisheries, according to the division. The water warms up more than other higher-elevation reservoirs, facilitating abundant growth of phyto- and zooplankton ” microorganisms that provide a food source for fish. Kokanee salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout thrive in the lake. In turn those fish provide a food source for lake trout, which are a predator species.

The daily bag limit for lake trout is eight per day of any size.

Walker plans to have his big fish mounted.

His tip for catching big Mackinaws: “We’ve sat out there many days and haven’t caught any fish. You’ve got to have a lot of patience and be at the right place at the right time.”

Blue Mesa Reservoir is located about 10 miles east of Gunnison in south central Colorado.