For several excruciating seconds, the monster kokanee salmon thrashed about behind the boat.
Realizing the normal 14-inch kokanee net wasn’t going to cut it, Captain Scott Carey frantically tried to free the bigger net that is normally reserved for mackinaw. He had been waiting to catch a record-breaker for 22 years, and by the looks of it, this one would go down in Tahoe history.
But first he needed to net the beast, and the fish was now dangerously close to crossing another line and freeing itself.
“You let a fish like that flop around on the surface and he’s going to be gone,” Carey said. “He’s going to wink at you and you’ll never see him again.”
Carey pulled the mackinaw net loose and lurched toward the fish. He thrust the net out as far as possible, nearly falling in the water. His net found fish, however, and he pulled.
“He flipped it onto the deck and our breath was taken away by how huge this kokanee was,” first mate Scott Hoffman said. “Captain Scott Carey has worked half his life for a day like this.”
At 2:10 p.m. Saturday, July 20, the Tahoe Sports Fishing crew and angler Bill Brush of Nevada City, Calif., hauled in a new California and Nevada kokanee record at 5 pounds and 2 ounces.
The catch broke a record for Lake Tahoe that stood for 40 years, almost to the day. On July 31, 1973, Dick Bournique pulled a 4-pound, 13-ounce kokanee out of Lake Tahoe. Some said that record would never be broken.
The kokanee was reeled in off Baldwin Beach with a double whammy lure and some corn. It rang in at 5.10 pounds on a digital scale right after it was hauled on deck. About 15 minutes later, another scale called it 5.8 pounds. The crew knew that weight would drop quickly, however, as the fish continued to lose moisture and blood. They needed to find a certified scale quickly.
Hoffman packed the fish in ice and started making phone calls. He called every wildlife department he could think of, but they were all closed for the weekend. He even called the police station, where it was suggested he could just take a picture of the fish with whoever caught it.
He was about to give up, but he decided to make one final call to Overland Meat & Seafood Co. The market had a certified scale and the Tahoe Sports Fishing crew rushed the kokanee in by 3:30 p.m.
“Everyone on the boat besides the captain and I thought it was an ordinary fish,” Hoffman said. “Scott Carey has been looking for the record-breaking mackinaw, also known as lake trout, for over 22 years. Little did he know that he was targeting the wrong record-breaker this whole time.”
Carey and Hoffman had the fish certified with the Fish and Game Department on Monday.