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Manistee monster

3/5/2010
Tom Healy poses with his IGFA All-Tackle world record brown trout in Manistee, Mich. Courtesy IGFA

Tom Healy is now an IGFA world record holder, but one aspect he recalls fondly of his big day is the people of Manistee, Mich., and their respect for his huge catch.

Healy might have been a bit overshadowed by Japan's Manabu Kurita and his IGFA world record 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass that tied a 77 year-old record, but his IGFA All-Tackle world record brown trout is an equally impressive "holy grail" of freshwater fish species.

By a pound and three ounces, Healy, of Rockford, Mich., eclipsed the 17-year-old brown trout (Salmo trutta) world record with a 41-pound, 7-ounce fish pulled out of Michigan's Manistee River, on Sept. 9, 2009.

The IGFA record he beat was a 40-4 brown pulled from Arkansas' Little Red River in May 9, 1992 by Howard Collins.

On that September morning, Healy was fishing with friend Bob Woodhouse of Grand Rapids, Mich., and guide Tim Roller of Ultimate Outfitters. For well over 20 years Healy, a retired construction manager, traveled the two hours to fish for chinook salmon and steelhead on the Manistee.

The three men were targeting salmon by drifting the river and casting Rapala crank-baits (plugs). Healy was using a #8 silver Shad Rap with a 9' Cabela's XML rod and a Cabela's Prodigy reel filled with 30-pound Power-Pro.

They had already hooked two salmon, when about 8 a.m. Healy had a strike he immediately recognized as a sizable fish. Healy said it made a violent first run up-river where it came to the surface and tried to jump but couldn't because of its immense size.

Only when the fish came to the net 15 minutes later did they simultaneously realize two things: first, the fish was a whole lot bigger than they had originally thought, and second, it was not a salmon at all, but a brown trout.

Its weight bottomed out Healy's Boga Grip at the maximum 30-pound mark. They then estimated it weighed maybe 35 pounds. It measured at 43.75 inches with a girth of 27 inches.

Since steelhead are Healy's passion, he thought it necessary to call brown trout guru and local charter captain Mark Chimura to help verify the fish.

When Chimura learned what they had, he pulled his fishing trip off the river and came with a certified scale to their location. The fish weighed over 41 pounds.

Chimura then called and asked the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to meet them and the fish at his charter business shop in downtown Manistee.

When the Michigan conservation officer arrived he in turn called two DNR fish biologists to come and confirm the species and verify its weight, length and girth. Fish scales that were clipped for age determination, later confirmed the fish was six years of age.

The local TV station came and recorded the weighing of the fish for broadcast.

Above and beyond achieving the IGFA All-Tackle record for the biggest brown trout ever landed on rod and reel, Healy said he was touched most by the respect the people of Manistee gave the fish. He recalls standing on the downtown sidewalk, lifting the brown trout up for a period of almost six hours so everyone could pay respects and enjoy the beauty and amazing size of the fish.

This made the catch more special to Healy, because the people of Manistee know fish and fishing. Many of the residents and families in that area are lifelong anglers, charter boat captains, fishing guides, or are somehow involved in the fishing tourism industry of Manistee.

Healy said they know the tremendous historic importance behind such a catch and realize the all-time biggest brown trout on rod and reel can arguably be one of those "holy-grails" of fish species to catch.