Coming up just shy of catching Illinois’ biggest lake trout

Ryan Donovan caught a lake trout just shy of the Illinois record, which was a good reason to take a look at why lakers are growing so big in Illinois waters.

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Ryan Donovan holds his lake trout after being weighed at Park Bait and just missing the Illinois record.

Ryan Donovan holds his lake trout after being weighed at Park Bait and just missing the Illinois record.


Ryan Donovan caught a lake trout Aug. 5 that just missed the Illinois record.

Capt. Kevin Bachner messaged that it was ‘‘caught in 140 feet of water, about 14 miles east of Chicago, on a SWR setup [secret weapon rig] with a blue and yellow spoon on a downrigger 100 feet down.’’ Donovan was on Kingfisher Charters out of Belmont Harbor.

After Capt. Ian Stewart reached Montrose Harbor, Donovan’s laker weighed 38.32 pounds on Park Bait’s certified scale. Dr. Atul Mallik caught the Illinois-record lake trout (39-2.6) on May 31, 2021, out of Montrose Harbor on the Massive Confusion.

The biggest laker sampled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in surveys since the late 1990s was 31 pounds, 5 ounces, emailed Vic Santucci, the Lake Michigan program manager for the IDNR.

‘‘With the large trout and salmon being caught these days, I could definitely see the lake trout record being broken again soon,’’ he emailed. ‘‘These fish are long-lived, and although they grow much more slowly than salmon, they are able to keep growing their entire lives.

‘‘Our biologists have recorded ages of lake trout up to around 40 years. Even though growth tends to slow substantially in older mature trout, several decades of growth can lead to some monster trout, although very few individuals are going to survive that long.’’

For decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has led restorations on Lake Michigan. Santucci noted that ‘‘resulted in good spawner populations throughout the lake, especially in the southern basin. Many factors are involved with successful natural reproduction, but having an abundant spawner population is an important first step that has been a long-term goal of the restoration effort.

‘‘As far as we can tell, lake trout natural reproduction began in earnest around 2005. Those fish probably have not had enough time to reach record size, given typical growth rates that we see. We think the last Illinois record laker was a fish stocked back in 1993, and she was probably around 29 years old when caught.’’

Santucci hopes to learn from taxidermist Tom Wendel whether Donovan’s laker had any fin clips and to get ‘‘the head to check for a possible coded wire tag and the upper jaw bone for aging.’’

Lloyd Bull caught the world-record laker (72 pounds) on Aug. 19, 1995, from Great Bear Lake in Canada, according to the International Game Fish Association.

Wild things

Barb Sloan emailed that her butterfly weed ‘‘has been graced with up to five monarch caterpillars at a time this summer.’’ . . . On Friday evening, Bill Savage tweeted a photo of a monarch working lantana in Evergreen Park.

• On Sunday, Alan Anderson posted on Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts about seeing early migrating common nighthawks, advising, ‘‘So it might be time to check the sunset skies.’’

Stray cast

Jake Burger hitting for the Marlins is like Ryan Whitaker fishing for bonefish.

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