Locals catch potential state-record setting northern pike at Stagecoach
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On a Friday in early May, three grown men stood in a boat along the south side of Stagecoach Reservoir, crying.
Brady Wettlaufer of Steamboat Fishing Adventures had just helped a pair of young local men, who wish to remain anonymous, catch a massive fish that he had seen in the reservoir for years. The trio worked tirelessly for half an hour, reeling in a Northern pike that was 48 inches long and weighed 38 pounds, large enough to become the new state record holder.
“Time stood still. It was a good 30 minutes, and it took all three of us to land it. It was an amazing thing, it truly was. I was absolutely beside myself. I couldn’t believe it happened,” said Wettlaufer. “A fish of that caliber and that age has seen every trick in the book, so to say. To get it to end up on our boat was a heck of a feat. At the end, we were all hooting and hollering, and there were tears in everybody’s eyes.”
The pike hasn’t been measured on official equipment to be in the running for the record, yet, but if it were, it would blow the previous record out of the water. The current record for largest Northern Pike in Colorado was set in 2006 at Stagecoach Reservoir with a 30 pound fish. The young men who caught the fish may decide to not make their feat official, though.
If they choose not to, Wettlaufer completely understands. He isn’t in the fishing business for the recognition or the feats.
“I didn’t get into the fishing business for the money,” he said. “It’s one of those where I do it from all of my heart. For him to say, ‘Thank you for giving me a memory and an experience of a lifetime,’ is something I’ll never forget.”
If the fish were officially measured, the anglers’ name as well as the location of their catch would be public. So, if that were to happen, anglers may flock to Stagecoach to try to bag a record pike of their own. Even after a photo of the pike was posted on Facebook, Wettlaufer saw an increase in people fishing.
“This past weekend, I was down there, and I was like O.M.G. look at all these people,” he said. “So, we’re not certain what we’re going to do, but I am certain that fish is going to be mounted and used for educational purposes within the division of wildlife, then it will find it’s final resting home at Dude and Dan’s. I think it’ll be up there a while.”
Hauling in the enormous fish was a task that required work from all three men on board. When the fish was hooked, Wettlaufer said they were about to get spooled, or that all the line would run out. Adding to the stress, the fish had swum under the boat and was bending the line through a metal support of the boat’s Bimini top. The spooling was happening a lot faster than he presumed, though. He soon realized that his trolling motor was on autopilot and bringing the boat towards the middle of the lake, causing the fish to go under the boat.
“When I noticed my mistake, I quickly turned the boat to a position where my client was able to pull the line out of the side of the bimini and the line popped loose and the fish came out,” recalled Wettlaufer.
Only the head of the fish fit in the net, so Wettlaufer broke out a cradle net, typically used for handling fish in the water, to pull the fish onto the boat. The fish was not successfully revived and was not returned to the water.
“A fish of that size was nearing the end of its life. It probably only had another year or two in it,” said Wettlaufer. “With the stress upon it, I tried to revive it. I tried for a good 20 minutes, and it wasn’t happening.”
Steamboat Fishing Adventures is able to host small group fishing tours and is offering 3-hour family tours as well as kids camps. If interested, call Brady Wettlaufer at 970-819-3561.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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