Pending Illinois-record pink salmon caught out of North Point among a super slam on Lake Michigan
Alex Niemiec’s pending Illinois-record pink salmon highlights a super slam Sunday on Lake Michigan during a family charter with Capt. Gerry Urbanozo out of North Point Marina.
Some days are just super on Lake Michigan.
Alex Niemiec made Sunday even more so by catching the pending Illinois record pink salmon.
In classic understatement, he said Monday, “We had a pretty successful trip.”
How successful? Capt. Gerry Urbanozo, who does Lake Michigan trips for T-Bone Guide Service, messaged Sunday, “Got a rare super super slam today.”
That would be Chinook, coho, lake trout, brown trout, steelhead and pink salmon, for Niemiec, his older brother Kevin and their dad Robert on a charter out of North Point Marina.
After catching some kings shallow around dawn, Urbanozo moved them deeper to 220 feet and they steadily picked up fish. Then came record time.
“The Dipsy rod started shaking and I gave Alex the rod and this time it was a goofy looking coho,” Urbanozo said. “I quickly put it in the box to get the Dipsy back in the water.”
“It just felt like a normal fish,” Niemiec said. “We had no idea. Didn’t know it was a pink salmon until we were back.”
Niemiec, who will be in eighth grade at St. James in Arlington Heights, loves bass fishing around ponds in Cook County.
“We kept picking up fish every 10 to 15 minutes,” Urbanozo messaged. “We got a good sized steelhead and several cohos before another goofy looking fish hit the deck.
“When we got back to the dock I told them to hang their catch on the fish rack. That’s when I noticed the oval spots on the tail even more and the scales were much smaller than the coho. I checked the mouth and realized it was black with some grey mixed in. Definitely not a coho and definitely not a king!”
Urbanozo, a Lake County Health Department biologist, was pretty sure it was a pink salmon and knew it was in record range. Rafael Otero Jr. caught the current Illinois record pink salmon (3 pounds, 8 ounces) on Sept. 29, 2007 from shore at Waukegan Harbor.
Pink salmon are the smallest Pacific salmon in North America, weighing up to 5 pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Spawning males have a pronounced hump.
“My favorite class in college was Ichthyology, lol,” Urbanozo messaged. “I began to point out the oval spots on the tail and the smaller scales and the black gums which were definitely different than a coho. . . . I began to fillet all the fish and asked Robert if I could take the fish to Lake Michigan Angler since they had a certified scale since it was Salmon-A-Rama week.
“I rushed to the store and the owner Rob [Wendel] yelled, `Sorry, we’re closed!’ I laughed and plopped the fish on the scale.”
It weighed 3.9 pounds, a record if it was a pink salmon.
Both Rob and his dad Tom, who have much experience with salmon and trout, said it was definitely a pink salmon.
On Monday, Becky Redman, fisheries project specialist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, certified the fish.
“She got really excited when she saw the oval spots on the tail since it was not as visible in the pictures,” Urbanozo said.
When the paperwork is finalized and signed by fisheries chief Mike McClelland, the record will be official.
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