Minnesota Capt. Kent Paulsen had a banner Labor Day on Lake Superior. By 7 a.m., David and Chris Cichosz, the husband-and-wife duo he had on board, were well on their way to a double limit of lake trout during their first-ever outing on the lake. So, they shifted gears and started targeting coho salmon (also known as silver salmon). Within minutes, they had a pending state-record coho in the net.
“We already had a bunch of lake trout in the boat, so I set up trolling for cohos with dodgers and flies,” Paulsen, 39, tells Outdoor Life. “I got the lures down about 50 feet, just above the thermocline in 80 feet of 50-degree water. At 7:30 a.m., a hot fish hit and pulled about 100 feet of line off the reel drag before my angler, David Chihosz, could get the rod and start fighting the fish.”
It took about five minutes for Chihosz, an ex-Marine from Wabasha, Minnesota, to bring the fish close to Paulsen’s 33-foot Chris-Craft boat, the True North II. Paulsen netted the fish and immediately knew it was a possible state record.
“We’ve been prepping for big salmon all year, and I expected a record to be caught, I knew this was the fish,” Paulsen says. “I weighed it on my boat scales, and it read 11 pounds. I told David and his wife Chris this is going to be a fish to remember. That’s when we brought in the downriggers and fishing lines and headed back to shore to have the fish officially weighed.”
It was a quick 3-mile run back to Lake Head Marina, where Paulsen’s FishNorth MN charter business is based. They immediately took the salmon to the Super One grocery store in nearby Duluth, where the fish weighed 10.92 pounds on a certified scale. It measured 29 inches long. If approved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Chihosz’s salmon will replace the current state record of 10.38 pounds, which dates all the way back to 1970.
Technically, a new state coho record had been submitted to the DNR days earlier on Sept. 2, according to the Duluth News Tribune. That 10.06-pound coho was also caught from Lake Superior. It was a potential state record because the DNR is currently revising its record fish program by reclassifying some records caught before 1980 as “historic” and opening the door to new certified weight records.
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Paulsen says it’s been an exceptional summer for coho salmon fishing on western Lake Superior. Unlike in some of the other Great Lakes, cohos have a self-sustaining population there that doesn’t require additional stocking by the DNR.
“The next day we took the coho to DNR headquarters at French River, where Nick Petersen is the local head of the fisheries crew,” Paulsen says. “He identified the fish as a coho, helped with the paperwork for records. We donated the fish to DNR so they can do research on it, learn about its age, health, what it had been eating, etc.”
On average years, Paulsen’s anglers catch mostly 3- to 6-pounders, but he says the salmon seem bigger and fatter this year due to abundant stocks of ciscoes and other baitfish in the lake. In fact, he believes the state coho record could get broken again before the season ends later this month.
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