A Fishy Story (giant smallmouth bass?)

 

This article appeared in the Chicago Sun Times about a possible record Smallmouth Bass caught at a Chicago location beside Monroe Harbor south of Buckingham Fountain in Lake Michigan.

This is what a die hard Smallmouth hunter  had to say, and I must agree!

Dale shouldn’t have wasted his time and the Ink writing this FISH STORY without Real evidence. It’s a nice Smallie but no 8lb’r. I agree with Karl at best a 6 lb smallie. Henry’s is but 15-20 minutes away. Why didn’t he go there and get a certified weight? Too many if’s to the story and what’s with the fish turning to mush? If you thought it was a record wouldn’t you have tried to preserve the fish??? Possibly there are 8 lb’rs in there but this is not one of them. Everyone has questions about this fish but the answers are not legit.

 Doug Busch stands in his Eddie Olczyk Blackhawks cap, holding a big smallmouth bass — the glamor fish on the lakefront — at an iconic Chicago location beside Monroe Harbor south of Buckingham Fountain.

But was it the Illinois-record smallmouth? There is no fish to examine, only one photo and reports of witnesses.

Like many, I’ve waited for years for somebody to catch the record smallmouth on southern Lake Michigan. But the story of Busch, 54, and his smallmouth will haunt me, as it already does him.

He was serious when he said: ‘‘Oh, my God, I almost need counseling. It has emotionally drained me. It ruined a friendship.’’

On May 14, Busch, who lives in unincorporated Will County outside of Joliet, went downtown to fish smallmouth with his friend Mike Zagar. The date matters. That was the May full moon, typically prime time for spawning female smallmouth to be on shore.

Busch caught his fish while drop-shotting with a Gulp! Minnow. His trick is to use three-eighth-ounce weight, heavy enough that he can ‘‘feel it going over’’ the bottom on 5-pound PowerPro Braided Line.

Zagar helped net the fish, and Busch put it on a stringer. He measured it at 23 inches. He said it had a girth of 22 inches (8 inches high, 3 inches thick). Typically, girth is measured by wrapping a tape around, but that is a quibble. The size is right for a state record.

Mark Samp caught the Illinois-record smallmouth (6 pounds, 7 ounces) on March 26, 1985, from a strip pit in Fulton County.

Busch’s neighbor realized it was a big fish. It was weighed and witnessed at more than 4 kilograms (converted to 8 pounds, 9 ounces) on a Rapala digital scale, which Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff found to be accurate.

Busch asked Doug Petrousek at Douglas Taxidermy to build a replica. Because of the size of the fish, Petrousek, who has worked on many state- and world-record fish, asked to use the fish for a mold. But there was no fish to make a mold from.

Busch said the fish didn’t fit in his freezer, so it went to a friend’s. Here, the story turns. The fish was left out. It thawed and turned to mush, then was thrown away.

At that point, I asked Busch why he didn’t immediately weigh the fish on a certified scale. Henry’s Sports and Bait, a few blocks away, has weighed several significant record fish and always has witnesses around.

‘‘I didn’t know [the record],’’ Busch said. ‘‘Believe me, I would have been driving Downstate with that fish on ice [if I knew].’’

Busch’s answer kind of makes sense. He fishes a lot for largemouth bass. The Illinois record for that is an unattainable — and likely bogus — 13 pounds, 1 ounce.

‘‘I just figured the smallmouth [record] was at least 10 pounds,’’ Busch said.

Enter the fishing manager at Gander Mountain in Joliet, who recognized Busch’s smallmouth might be the Illinois record. He showed Busch the state record and helped him with the submission.

‘‘It is a beautiful fish I would like to share,’’ Busch said.

IDNR staff members are in a pickle. Do they certify a significant record without anybody in an oversight role seeing the fish?

Even if it isn’t formally recognized, Busch said, ‘‘In my heart, it is good enough.’’

Doug Busch stands in his Eddie Olczyk Blackhawks cap, holding a big smallmouth bass — the glamor fish on the lakefront — at an iconic Chicago location beside Monroe Harbor south of Buckingham Fountain.

But was it the Illinois-record smallmouth? There is no fish to examine, only one photo and reports of witnesses.

Like many, I’ve waited for years for somebody to catch the record smallmouth on southern Lake Michigan. But the story of Busch, 54, and his smallmouth will haunt me, as it already does him.

He was serious when he said: ‘‘Oh, my God, I almost need counseling. It has emotionally drained me. It ruined a friendship.’’

On May 14, Busch, who lives in unincorporated Will County outside of Joliet, went downtown to fish smallmouth with his friend Mike Zagar. The date matters. That was the May full moon, typically prime time for spawning female smallmouth to be on shore.

Busch caught his fish while drop-shotting with a Gulp! Minnow. His trick is to use three-eighth-ounce weight, heavy enough that he can ‘‘feel it going over’’ the bottom on 5-pound PowerPro Braided Line.

Zagar helped net the fish, and Busch put it on a stringer. He measured it at 23 inches. He said it had a girth of 22 inches (8 inches high, 3 inches thick). Typically, girth is measured by wrapping a tape around, but that is a quibble. The size is right for a state record.

Mark Samp caught the Illinois-record smallmouth (6 pounds, 7 ounces) on March 26, 1985, from a strip pit in Fulton County.

Busch’s neighbor realized it was a big fish. It was weighed and witnessed at more than 4 kilograms (converted to 8 pounds, 9 ounces) on a Rapala digital scale, which Illinois Department of Natural Resources staff found to be accurate.

Busch asked Doug Petrousek at Douglas Taxidermy to build a replica. Because of the size of the fish, Petrousek, who has worked on many state- and world-record fish, asked to use the fish for a mold. But there was no fish to make a mold from.

Busch said the fish didn’t fit in his freezer, so it went to a friend’s. Here, the story turns. The fish was left out. It thawed and turned to mush, then was thrown away.

At that point, I asked Busch why he didn’t immediately weigh the fish on a certified scale. Henry’s Sports and Bait, a few blocks away, has weighed several significant record fish and always has witnesses around.

‘‘I didn’t know [the record],’’ Busch said. ‘‘Believe me, I would have been driving Downstate with that fish on ice [if I knew].’’

Busch’s answer kind of makes sense. He fishes a lot for largemouth bass. The Illinois record for that is an unattainable — and likely bogus — 13 pounds, 1 ounce.

‘‘I just figured the smallmouth [record] was at least 10 pounds,’’ Busch said.

Enter the fishing manager at Gander Mountain in Joliet, who recognized Busch’s smallmouth might be the Illinois record. He showed Busch the state record and helped him with the submission.

‘‘It is a beautiful fish I would like to share,’’ Busch said.

IDNR staff members are in a pickle. Do they certify a significant record without anybody in an oversight role seeing the fish?

Even if it isn’t formally recognized, Busch said, ‘‘In my heart, it is good enough.’’

Category: Smallmouth Bass
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