The woman who would catch The King: Some details on Marge Landeen’s 1976 Illinois-record Chinook

Some details on Marge Landeen catching the Illinois-record Chinook in 1976 as a “fluke.”

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Marge Landeen and her Illinois-record Chinook. Photo provided by family

Marge Landeen and her Illinois-record Chinook.

Provided by family

Sometimes, you get lucky in life.

Take Saturday. While catching up on emails, I found this from Marlene Landeen, “Hello, this is my mom, Marge Landeen.”

I did a double-take. Speaking of luck, Marge Landeen had it, too.

I was doubly excited when I saw the photo, a classic fish photo of the times.

“This is the day she caught the state record Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan, August 7, 1976,” Marlene Landeen emailed. “I just stumbled across the article you wrote [Feb. 19, 2021], maybe you can put the photo with your records.”

Maybe? Good God, yes.

A fish as important and big as Marge Landeen’s Illinois-record Chinook deserves a full-length view. Photo provided by family

A fish as important and big as Marge Landeen’s Illinois-record Chinook deserves a full-length view.

Provided by family

I’ve never been able to find out much about Landeen’s Chinook. I checked with three different Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff if they knew who held the record before Landeen. Even with a lot of digging, they couldn’t find the answer.

I checked with the three best pack rats of Chicago fishing that I know—Don Dubin, Ron Wozny, Ken Schneider—but none of the three could dig up that little piece of information.

If you know who held the record before Landeen or if anybody did, please let me know.

Modern salmon stockings in Lake Michigan are relatively recent, doubly so in 1976. Michigan’s Howard Tanner brought the brains and the audacity to begin stocking salmon into Lake Michigan, partly to help control the overly abundant alewives. Michigan’s first stocking of coho was in 1966. Chinook were added to the salmon stockings in 1967.

For perspective, Chinook take four years to reach full maturity.

Illinois first stocked coho (10,000) and 10,000 brown trout in 1969. In 1970, Illinois added a stocking of 10,000 Chinook to go with 10,000 coho and 1,540 browns.

Marge Landeen caught the Illinois-record Chinook (37 pounds) on Aug. 7, 1976 in Lake County waters. Whether Landeen’s Chinook was a Michigan or Illinois stocking, or from other parts, cannot be known.

“The Landeen record could have been an Illinois stocked fish, but we now know from the Mass Marking Project how far and wide salmon travel during the summer fishing season,” emailed Vic Santucci, Lake Michigan program manager for the IDNR. “Since the Landeen fish was caught in August, it also could be from any of the other Lake Michigan states or Lake Huron.”

When Marlene Landeen sensed my excitement, she sent me a follow-up.

“You just gave me the chills!,” she emailed. “My mom was like me, kind of grossed out by worms and lures! My dad was the fisherman. Her catching that huge fish was a fluke! She was out for the day with her gal buddies from International Harvester in Burr Ridge. My dad’s jaw dropped when he saw the fish.”

Both parents are deceased now. John R. Landeen was the father/husband. He was a pattern maker for Fisher Body in Willow Springs.

“My parents were children of immigrants: Mom’s parents were from Ireland and dad’s from Sweden,” Landeen emailed. “Mom grew up on Bishop street in Chicago. They were high school sweethearts at Calumet High.”

Some stories just get richer and richer.

“Would you like a picture of the famous fish that is at my sister’s place?” Marlene asked.

Would I? I live and nearly die for stuff like that.

Marlene Landeen’s sister is Barbara Lastovka.

“Part of my Mom’s prize was the fish after taxidermy and lures, a plaque,” Marlene added.

Physical pieces of history to hold.

The mount of Marge Landeen’s Illinois-record Chinook. Photo provided by family

The mount of Marge Landeen’s Illinois-record Chinook.

Provided by family

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