Leaving Portage, Indiana in their Lund bass boat out onto Lake Michigan on Dec. 31, Scott Skafar and neighbor Tom Solomon put together a cold but bountiful fishing day both will remember for a long time.
The anglers had just finished catching a buster limit of jumbo yellow perch, so they changed tactics to soft plastic Zoom lures on jig heads for lake trout. They caught a few lakers, then Skafar boated a big burbot and nonchalantly put in his boat’s livewell.
“The first one, I really didn’t think nothing of it,” Skafar told the Kansas City Star. “Just caught the fish and we put it in the livewell.”
Then he caught another, bigger burbot, which is the only freshwater cod, that looks a bit like a catfish and is good on the dinner table, too.
That got Skafar to thinking about the burbot size, and he weighed the second and largest on a handheld scale. Then he checked the current Indiana record for burbot.
“Holy cow,” Skafar told the K.C. Star. “This is above the record.”
The current record for burbot, according to Indiana DNR, is 7-pounds, 11-ounces.
Skafar’s first burbot weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces. His second fish weighed 10 pounds, 2 ounces. Both hit a Zoom 5-inch “Fluke.”
“How did I get two of them bigger than the current record?” he asked.
Because it was a holiday weekend and DNR offices and most businesses were closed, Skafar thought it would be a pain to get an official certified weight of his burbot. Plus he knew he had to fill out state paperwork for an Indiana record.
He really wanted to keep fishing. But a pal advised him otherwise. So he quit fishing and headed to a grocery store in Valparaiso, where the fish were weighed and photographed on certified scales in front of witnesses. His 10-pound, 2-ounce fish measured 32 1/8-inches long, with a 16 ¼-inch girth.
Skafar froze his burbot until Ben Dickinson with Indiana’s DNR could check the fish, then he submitted paperwork to DNR, which is reviewing it, but it’s almost a certainty it’s a state record.
“I’ve been fishing all my life and it never dawned on me that I would catch a state record burbot ‘cause it’s kind of a rare fish,” he said. “It’s definitely rewarding.”