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Holy trout, that's a big one

Jim Bahen of Cloquet recently landed a lake trout that came in at 44 inches long and 36 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Jim Bahen)

Jim Bahen of Cloquet had no intention of releasing the huge lake trout. An avid Kamloops rainbow trout angler, Bahen knows those big lake trout eat lots of young rainbows in the spring.

Bahen, 48, was trolling stickbaits off the McQuade Small Craft Harbor in Lake Superior when he hooked the big lake trout. After a half-hour battle, he managed to get it in the net. It was 44 inches long and weighed 36 pounds, Bahen said.

"It made eight runs," Bahen said. "I didn't think I was going to land it."

Every spring in late May and early June, Bahen trolls the shallows along the North Shore hoping to pick up some big lakers. Two years ago, his son Frank caught one that weighed 30 pounds. And his friend, Don Zirbes of Duluth, caught a 36-pounder that was 42.6 inches long the same year.

Bahen was using 30-pound PowerPro line with a 15-pound Maxima leader. He weighted the line, and the Bomber minnow imitation was ticking the bottom in 14 feet of water, he said.

Early in the battle, Bahen thought he might be able to net the fish. He had just tightened the drag on his reel, and when he tried to net the fish, it made a run under his boat.

"I was bent over the side of the boat," he said. "I thought that thing was going to pull me out of the boat."

When the fish finally tired, Bahen was able to net it and haul it aboard. It was a native fish, not a planted fish, which Bahen knew because the fish had no fins clipped to indicate it was stocked.

His largest lake trout before this one was a 27-pounder, he said.

He took the fish home and smoked it and has shared it with friends.

"I'd rather be catching walleyes and eating walleyes," Bahen said. "These fish aren't the greatest eating."

"The reason I go down there this time of year is I try to catch those big lake trout because they're in that shallow water feeding on those 'loopies (Kamloops rainbow trout)."

He considers his trolling a public service to other Kamloops rainbow anglers, who fish for grown-up Kamloops rainbows along the shore and in some North Shore streams.

"It's awesome," Bahen said of his catch. "A fish like that can eat how many rainbows?"

When Zirbes caught his 36-pound lake trout two years ago, Department of Natural Resources officials estimated it was 25 years old. That fish was a stocked fish, DNR officials said.