On May 11, angler Keith Miller, 73, of Cranberry Township, Venango County, joined friends with God’s Grace Sport Fishing, a charter company, for a scouting trip for the upcoming summer fishing season on Lake Erie. Departing from the North East Marina in Erie County, Miller, along with Captain Lane Brown and first mate Tom Thompson, ventured between about 2.5 miles off shore, fishing in an area known as “The Mountain.”
At around 4:30 p.m., the boat was trolling above 55 feet of water when a fish struck on an Orange Crush UV Copper colored Michigan Stinger spoon on 30-pound braided line.
“I could tell it was a lot bigger than the ones we’d been catching,” recalled Miller, who said the crew had already boated several lake trout in the 14-pound range earlier that day. “At first, it was like dead weight, but then the fish started taking quite a bit of line and put up a really great fight.”
After an approximately 15-minute tug of war, Miller says the large lake trout appeared at the surface of the water and the crew immediately suspected it could be a state record contender. Upon boating the fish, a preliminary weight taken using a handheld scale indicated the lake trout was approximately 31 pounds. If accurate, Miller’s catch was heavier than the previous state record lake trout weight of 29-pounds, 4-ounces, also caught in Lake Erie in 2012 by an angler from Nazareth, Northampton County.
“It was almost like one of those, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ moments,” said Miller. “We’re just out there fishing for fun and all of the sudden you might have a state record on your hands.”
The crew immediately pulled its remaining lines from the water and headed back to shore, where the fish was transported to Poor Richard’s Bait and Tackle in Fairview for a certified scale. A weigh-in was conducted under the supervision of Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Waterways Conservation Officer Matthew Visosky, where the lake trout tipped the scales at 31-pounds, 13-ounces, exceeding the previous record by two-pounds, nine-ounces. Miller’s fish measured 40-inches in length with a girth of 24.25-inches.
As is required for state record consideration, in addition to a witnessed weigh-in and PFBC in-person inspection, Miller completed an official state record fish application, including color photographs, which was reviewed by PFBC officials and confirmed. State record fish are judged only by weight and must exceed the previous state record by at least two ounces.
Miller says while he is proud to hold the new record, he gives credit to Brown and Thompson.
“It was a team effort. Those guys are the ones who know the lake and found where the fish were biting,” he said.
Upon weighing the lake trout, Miller turned the fish over to staff at Poor Richard’s to be preserved in a freezer so that it can eventually be accurately replicated and mounted for display at the business.
“I live alone,” said Miller. “If I put it at my house, nobody would ever see it and all it would do is collect dust. I also think records are made to be broken and this might not last very long. I suspect there are other lake trout in Lake Erie that would enjoy mine for a snack.”