Really big Chinook: The chase for the Illinois record nears the final goal

Dan Keifer landed a Chinook within less than two pounds of the Illinois record Friday while fishing with Brad Reineking out of Waukegan.

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Dan Keifer with a 35-pound Chinook caught Friday out of Waukegan on Brad Reineking’s boat. Provided photo

Dan Keifer with a 35-pound Chinook caught Friday out of Waukegan on Brad Reineking’s boat.

Provided

Any fish story that begins with ‘‘The fish was so big you couldn’t hold it out’’ is headed the right way.

Around 4:30 a.m. Friday, Brad Reineking of Fox River Grove launched out of Waukegan with Wisconsin brothers Dan and Ben Keifer.

They set up in 100 feet, then trolled between 100 and 150. By 6:30 a.m., they had caught a 22-pound Chinook and several coho out of Reineking’s 19 1/2-foot Alumacraft.

About 6:45 a.m., Reineking put a Stinger Killer Dolphin spoon on a 10-color line.

‘‘I caught so many kings on this last fall,’’ Reineking said. ‘‘I was looking at the board on the 10-color line. It bobbed twice and went down.’’

Dan Keifer took the rod and began reeling. The others quickly cleared lines.

‘‘It didn’t take that long to get it in, maybe 15 minutes,’’ Reineking said. ‘‘We didn’t realize how big it was until we had it in the net.’’

While clearing lines, another rod had a coho on it, which Reineking netted after Keifer’s king.

‘‘When I got [the king] into the net, I had to hand the net to my buddy, and he was struggling so hard to get it into the boat I had to help,’’ Reineking said. ‘‘I had never seen one that big.’’

The biggest one he had in his boat before was a 26.7-pound king caught four years ago at Sturgeon Bay by his son Nick.

The size of Keifer’s king became even more evident when in the boat, where it weighed 35.27 pounds.

‘‘The 22-pounder looked small compared to it,’’ Reineking said. ‘‘It is amazing what 10, 12 pounds does. I didn’t bring my big cooler, so we had to put it in the live well.’’

Marge Landeen caught the Illinois-record Chinook (37 pounds) on Aug. 7, 1976, in Lake County waters. On June 24, I did a column on the possibility of Illinois coho and Chinook records — which have stood since the 1970s — being broken.

‘‘[Keifer’s] biggest salmon [before] was 12 pounds,’’ Reineking said. ‘‘Ironically, for me, I have never broken 20 pounds.’’

You could say Reineking puts the king in others.

They only fished until about 8:30, adding a couple of more coho and a 17-pound king before they pulled lines.

Back at the launch that early, no one was around.

‘‘So nobody saw the fish besides the three of us and Jim [Nelligan],’’ Reineking said. ‘‘I wish more people could have seen a fish of that magnitude.’’

They took the fish to the Salmon Shop in Palatine, where Nelligan has been in business for 42 years.

‘‘It’s a big fish,” said Nelligan, who will do the taxidermy work. ‘‘I charged them for 43 inches, but if you pinch the tail, it was probably about 47 inches. A beautiful salmon.’’

Friday was a day for beautiful fish.

‘‘We all got multiple big kings, many over 20 pounds, probably three or four per boat,’’ emailed Capt. Scott Wolfe, who gave the heads up on Keifer’s big king. ‘‘The staging kings are in and really active.’’

‘‘Big fish are showing up, Dale, huge fish,’’ Nelligan said. ‘‘Nice to see the fish coming back.’’

After reflection this weekend, Reineking texted: ‘‘Thinking about your question, ‘Will the record be broken?’ I hope so, as I will still be trying.’’

Brad Reineking gives a comparison between a 22-pound and a 35-pound-plus Chinook. Photo provided

Brad Reineking gives a comparison between a 22-pound and a 35-pound-plus Chinook.

Provided

Illinois hunting

Protocols are out for the opening days of dove hunting at public sites. No final call yet on how waterfowl hunting will work at public sites.

Wild things

I was waiting to hear of nighthawks at Chicago baseball games, then remembered no one is in the stands.

Stray cast

Deciding Monday whether to watch Michelle Obama’s speech or the Sox’ homer barrage was like choosing between an Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant workshop or casting glow K.O. Wobblers at night for returning Chinook.

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