GUNNISON, Colo. - Scott Enloe said he has always hoped to catch a 50-pound fish, but when his line started to pull last Friday morning in Gunnison, Colorado, he never imagined his catch would likely break a world record.
Enloe told FOX Weather he and his son were excited to get out onto Colorado’s Blue Mesa Reservoir for the first time this season.
The father-son duo was third in line to get out on the reservoir on May 5, and they almost immediately began to have good luck: His son, Hunter, reeled in a 31-pound lake trout after visiting a few different spots on the water.
"We catch a lot of 30-, 35-pounders, 40-pounders," he told FOX Weather. "But our goal has been to try and break that 50-pound mark. And so, 50.5 pounds is the state record, which also came from Blue Mesa."
Enloe said he wasn’t necessarily trying to break the record, but they hoped to reel in a big one.
"We work hard at it," he said. "We fish a lot, and we’re very methodical in our fishing and methodical in our equipment that we use and try to really figure these fish out."
Enloe uses a depth finder to search for fish to see what’s lurking in the water under his boat. That’s when they saw something massive on the screen.
"On our depth finder, we saw what appeared to be two big fish," he said.
Based on what’s seen on the depth finder, Enloe said it’s easy to know the size of the fish. And looking at the screen, he thought he was seeing a few 30-pound fish beneath the surface.
He said he called his son over to look at what he saw on the depth finder, and that’s when the "big one" came into view.
"It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the depth finder," he said.
One heck of a fight
According to Enloe, the bigger fish usually show up as yellow or orange blobs on the depth finder. But this one was different.
"This fish came in, and it was purple, and teal and black," Enloe said.
The pair said they had never seen anything like it, and Enloe said his son told him, "I think that’s two fish together."
As the fish began to dive deeper, heading straight for his jig, Enloe’s attention shifted from the depth finder to his fishing line. Then the line started to bounce just a bit.
The fish then grabbed the bait at the end of the hook and put up one heck of a fight.
"We don’t get nervous or shook up over them until after the fact," he said. "We stay calm until we get it into the boat, and then we pretty much came unglued then," Enloe joked.
‘Mega Monster Giant!’
Enloe said he fought the fish for about 13 minutes before it finally surfaced again, and that was the first time his son saw the fish.
"I’ll never forget his words when he saw it," he said. "I couldn’t see it. I was kind of standing towards the back in the middle part of the boat, and he, of course, was on the edge with a net. And I’ll never forget. He said, ‘Mega monster giant.’ Just three words in a row."
So big that the net his son was using to scoop the fish out of the water was too small.
And when some of the fish was finally inside the net, both of them needed to reach in and pull the fish from the water into the boat.
"At that moment, we were high-fiving, and we were still in shock because this fish was just so large," Enloe said. "I’ve caught a lot of big fish, and this one just dwarfed anything."
The reservoir was impounded in 1966, and Enloe said that after speaking with others, including the park service, they’re convinced this mammoth fish was one of the originals put in the water 57 years ago.
Why the catch may not be a world record
Enloe said the fish weighed 73.29 pounds and was nearly 4 feet long.
According to the International Game Fish Association, the world record for the largest lake trout stands at 72 pounds and was caught in Great Bear Lake in Canada by Lloyd Bull in 1995.
Enloe’s catch was larger but may not go down in the record books.
"I released the fish alive," he said. "The part of the rules to become a world record is, and they’re rethinking this now, but part of the rule is you have to kill the fish."
Enloe said he and his son worked fast to take measurements and weigh it because he didn’t want to kill the fish.
"There’s a world record laying there, but I’m not going to kill this fish," he said. "I’m like, if at all costs, this fish is going back in the water, and it’s swimming away. It’s about conservation, but, you know, to me, it’s about respect for the fish. That fish has lived longer than me. And I’m like, you’ve got my respect for sure. You know? I fooled you one time, but I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. But I’m not going to be the one to take your life."
Enloe said he understands the rules to officially become a record-breaking fish, but the rule goes against what the International Game Fish Association preaches.
"I told the International Game Fish this, I told their board. I was like, ‘You all preach conservation, conservation, conservation, until, OK. Kill it,’" he said. "And I’m like, that totally goes against what you guys stand for. And I get it. There’s got to be a way of proofing these fish. We documented everything, you know, on video and in pictures. Waist, length, girth. Everything. Just so we could prove this."
After releasing the fish, Enloe said he was satisfied with seeing the fish swim away on the depth finder.
The one that got away
And after such a great catch, he and his son were done for the day but will never forget the one they let get away.
"We hung around in the area. But we didn’t even fish anymore. And we love to fish," he said. "We were done. What do we do? We sat around and just laughed. Me and my son are real close, and we hunt and fish together all the time. And, you know, we just sat around and laughed about it. We sat in the boat and just pulled up the pictures and looked at them."
IGFA outlines its record policies
A representative of IGFA responded to Enloe's concern after this story was published, saying that while some states require fish to be killed to certify a record, the IGFA promotes catch-and-release policies. The full statement follows:
"While some states in the U.S. still require fish to be killed to certify a state record, this is not the case for world records which are only certified through the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). The IGFA requires fish to be weighed on solid ground to ensure accuracy and consistency in record keeping but encourages all anglers to practice catch and release techniques and best handling practices throughout the recording process. Weighing a fish on solid ground provides a stable environment ensuring all world records were recorded under the same controlled conditions. When a fish is not weighed on solid ground, outputs may not be consistent due to the movement of the boat and other environmental factors that can affect measurement.
"The IGFA has been working with the American Carp Society to urge states that require fish to be killed for state records to adopt alternative practices so that trophy fish can be safely documented and released. As one of the world’s leading game fish conservation organizations, the IGFA believes it’s in the best interest of anglers everywhere to release as many fish as possible in a manner that gives them the best chance for survival. Last year, 68% of IGFA world record catches were released alive."
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a response from the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) regarding certifying world records.