When I reached Capt. Tim Wojnicz as he was fishing for perch Thursday, he cheerily said: ‘‘You are talking to Capt. Burbot here.”
He appears to be the right guy to have caught what should be Illinois’ first record for burbot. It could be the first of several new categories for record fish in Illinois.
On April 27, Wojnicz was fishing for perch off Waukegan. His FinQuest Charters are based in Kenosha, Wis., but he perch-fishes at Waukegan early in the year.
He was leaning out so he could keep an eye on the lines when he hooked something big on the usual perch rig: fathead minnows on a No. 6 Gamakatsu octopus hook.
‘‘I couldn’t believe it,” he said. ‘‘It fought like a sturgeon. It took, like, a half-hour to get it off the bottom. I had my first mate [Caleb Zorn] put my glove on because it was cold. It was awesome.”
Wojnicz loves eating burbot, also known as the lawyer fish (a clichÃ©d put-down of the profession) or eelpouts. But he thought this one could be the first Illinois record, so he saved it.
‘‘We caught two burbot that day,” Wojnicz said. ‘‘The other was about 4 pounds. Normally, we catch maybe two or three a year. It was two in one day. It was murky and a little choppy, like today [Thursday]. Typically, they are way out deep.”
He had it weighed at 8.85 pounds on the certified scale at the Boat House Pub & Eatery in Kenosha with Zorn and a bar manager as witnesses. The paperwork is what’s holding things up. Wojnicz had to print it out, then wait for the bar manager to be back at work. Wojnicz hopes to have it completed and submitted shortly. Meanwhile, he has the fish frozen in a towel.
Lake Michigan Program fisheries biologist Steve Robillard said he had seen nothing as of Thursday, but he said he had received a phone call about a ‘‘12-pound burbot.”
I love fish stories.
Robillard said that while burbot is ‘‘not currently a recognized species, we are considering it.”
Robillard said another possible addition to the list of Illinois’ record fish is whitefish. Up until somewhere in the 1990s, whitefish were a protected species in Illinois. Whitefish steadily have been pushing into Illinois waters, especially near the Indiana line.
In the last decade, Illinois has recognized hybrid crappie, white bass/yellow bass hybrid and, most recently, pumpkinseed as new record species.
Mike Thomas of Wilton Center in Will County messaged last April about his son catching nice chubs, including a nearly 14-inch hornyhead chub, in the creek by their house. His son wondered if it could be recognized for a record, like that species is in Wisconsin.
Robillard didn’t think that would be a likely addition. He thought newly recognized record species more likely would be ones regulated by the DNR.
‘‘We are not going to recognize all the minnows,” he said.
But the first burbot soon should be in Illinois’ record book.
‘‘That fish puts a smile on my face,” Wojnicz said. ‘‘They look like they are spreading out like a peacock. They don’t know they are about to be eaten.”
Not this one. It’s headed to Brehm Taxidermy in East Troy, Wis. It will test Dave Brehm’s skills. Without a burbot mold, he might have to adjust a catfish mold.
Making adjustments is part of the world of fishing records.