Torch Lake produces world record Atlantic salmon
The last thing Tom Aufiero expected last October, while fly fishing Torch Lake for Atlantic salmon, was to hook a world record. But that is what he did.
The International Gamefish Association announced Monday that the 54-year-old Indiana heart surgeon’s 26-pound, 12-ounce catch is the new IGFA All-Tackle world record for landlocked Atlantic salmon. He set another record too catching it on 6-pound test line.
“She didn’t hesitate at all,” said Aufiero, of Lafayette Ind. who caught the big female on a tiny shrimp pattern known as a mysis. She took his first cast with that fly after refusing several others.
“We were working the edges looking for fish,” he said. “The water is very clear. She would be interested in a fly the first time or two (casted), but was always reluctant to take it. We fished on an off for a couple of hours. It was that small shrimp fly that piqued its interest.”
Good thing too, said Aufiero’s fishing guide, Matt Supinski, owner of the Gray Drake Lodge on the Muskegon River. Supinski and Aufiero had spent several successful days fishing steelhead on the Muskegon River, then opted to go to Torch Lake for something different after the Muskegon turned muddy following a big release of water from Croton Dam.
“I was pulling my hair out, running out of hope having tried everything,” said Supinski about Aufiero’s fish. “I’d changed flies 16 or 17 times. Then I decided there must be some mysis shrimp in the lake and put one on figuring to give it one more try.
“Tom dead-drifted the shrimp and she saw it, then moved three to four feet off the bottom and just engulfed it. Tom, being a good steelhead fisherman, knew not to set the hook too early. Then he stuck the fish and all hell broke loose.”
Aufiero said he fought the salmon for 15 minutes and called it “a dogged fight,” before landing the big female.
Atlantic salmon, which are prized for their fight, have historically been found only in two places in Michigan, the St. Mary’s River and Torch Lake, where the state introduced them to create an Atlantic Salmon fishery. Atlantic salmon were once native to Lake Ontario but became extinct by 1900, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Torch Lake is no longer stocked with Atlantic salmon. Stocking there last occurred in 2006. State officials say that stocking created somewhat of “a niche fishery,” but never developed into anything substantial though anglers troll for them during summer months. The
Atlantic stocking program on Torch Lake was terminated for budgetary reasons and to shift those fish to Lake Huron where Chinook salmon fishery had collapsed.
“It doesn’t surprise me to see a 26 pound Atlantic come out of Torch Lake,” said Mark Tonello, the DNRE fish habitat biologist in Cadillac. “We know it is capable of producing big lake trout, big muskie, and last year someone caught at 29 pound brown trout there.
“But we haven’t heard a lot about real big Atlantics there. From what I’ve heard most are three to seven pounds. That fishery never produced what we had hoped. There was never any documented natural reproduction. But anytime we can produce fish like that is great.”
Aufiero and Supinski opted to release the fish. The IGFA accepts record submissions for catch and release fish as well as those caught and killed. Supinski was required, among other things, to submit photographs and his Boga Grip (portable scale) and samples of line for certification and verification.
The Florida-based IGFA maintains fishing records for both salt and freshwater fish species, going back to the 1930’s said Jack Vitek, the organization’s world records coordinator.
Vitek said the prior landlocked salmon record stood for just six months. That 24-pound, 11-ounce Atlantic salmon was caught in June of 2010 in Sweden by an angler from Denmark. The record before that was also a fish caught in Sweden.
“That record stood for eight years,” Vitek said.