World Record Laker Caught
on Lake Champlain?
We hear a lot of fish stories at Outdoors Magazine but none of them is better than that of Nicholas Palmer, age 15, of Alburgh, Vermont who set the Lake Champlain fishing world abuzz on Saturday when he landed a 16.8-pound lake trout on 2-pound test. While the fish itself is spectacular the manner in which it was caught is even better.
Nicholas was fishing with his father, Raleigh, on the Inland Sea portion of the lake off of North Hero. The pair almost didn't go out because Nicholas had a hockey game later in the day and wouldn't have much time. Instead he insisted they fish for a little while, and the father/son team imposed a curfew of 10:00 a.m. to be off the ice.
At about 9:45 a.m. Nicholas wanted to try one more hole. He commented that the hole he was using was fished-out and drilled a new one about 15 feet away through almost 25-inches of ice. After he cleaned it out he dropped his line down. He was using a green bibbet he had made himself and his reel was set-up light with 2-pound test line.
According to Nick's father, as soon as he dropped the bibbet the fish struck. Initially he thought it was a perch because the big laker was running towards the hole. "Then his rod doubled-over to the handle," said Raleigh.
Nicholas played the fish for almost 25 minutes before getting it close. It immediately became apparent the fish was going to be too big to get through the 6-inch diameter hole.
After several tries Raleigh reached into the hole through the 24-inches of ice and was able to grab the fish's head and guide it through. It was a tight fit, and in the process one of the front fins was ripped off.
By this time it was about 10 minutes after 10:00 a.m. and the duo had to hustle. One of the other fishermen suggested they weigh it but Raleigh was worried about the time it would take. As he was driving off the lake his cell phone rang; it was one of their fishing buddies. He had called Holiday Harbor Motel, which also sells bait and rents ice shanties, and Bruce Batchelder, the owner, was standing by with a certified scale. It would be a half-mile out of their way and only take a few minutes to get it weighed.
The big laker tipped the scales at 16.8 pounds.
Initially it was believed this was a new record for Lake Champlain, however, Shawn Good of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife double checked the trophy fish records and found out that the current Lake Champlain record is 17.95 pounds. Because that fish had been caught last summer and it takes a little while to process the paperwork it does not appear on the state's website yet.
Good also points out that the state Master Angler Program only reflects the fish that have been officially entered, which is an easy process. He encourages everyone with a good fish to do this because not only does it help with record keeping, but it also aids biologists in keeping an eye on the caliber of fish that are being caught.
We also contacted the IGFA, who serve as record keepers for line-test weight world records. According to their spokesman, the official world record for a laker on 2-pound test is 24 pounds. Unfortunately, the IGFA does not keep separate records for ice fishing, and it is very plausible Palmer's fish is a line-class world record in this category.
Batchelder was not necessarily surprised to see a fish of that caliber come out of the Inland Sea, an area traditionally known for its salmon. Recently he has seen the development of a core group of anglers who have devoted themselves to jigging for big lake trout in the area and they have been having fantastic results. He also notes that almost all of these fish are very clean and full of alewives.
Raleigh Palmer noted that one of the best things about his son's fish was that it didn't have a scar from a lamprey on it.