Congratulations to Michigan angler Joe Seeberger for catching the new Modern Day Muskellunge World Record Program (MDMWRP) record. The MDMWRP has patiently waited almost 6 years for a fish of this caliber, and we are very excited and proud to be able to certify such a grand specimen as our first official entry. Joe’s behemoth from Lake Bellaire, Michigan on October 13th, 2012 certainly sets an awe-inspiring record mark that’s worthy of North America's most elusive game fish.
The official weight is 58 pounds, bump-board length measurement 58 inches, girth measurement 29 inches. The fish did in fact weigh slightly more than 58 pounds, but due to record requirements, the certified weight must be rounded down to the nearest readable scale increment for acceptance as the new Michigan State, and MDMWRP Muskellunge record.
The world's foremost Muskie Historian Larry Ramsell, who also founded the MDMWRP said; “When I viewed this incredible fish with my own eyes, I instantly knew this would be a bona fide record that we could finally begin to rally around”.
Lake Belaire is part of an immense Antrim County interconnected lake system that totals more than 35,000 acres, the systems deep cool water and abundant forage has produced many record fish through the years, including 3 Muskellunge State Records.
The equipment that withstood the ultimate test was a 7’ medium-action G Loomis GL3 spinning rod, a Pflueger Supreme spinning reel spooled with 200 feet of new 8-pound-test Seagar fluorocarbon line tied directly to a size 1 Gamakatsu Octopus-style single hook. The bait was a live 7 ¼” sucker minnow lightly hooked through the nose, with one small single split-shot pinched to the line roughly 2’ above the minnow.
An Epic Catch:
Joe Seeberger, his brother Chuck, and good friend Jason Orbeck were greeted with snow showers when they arrived at their Bellaire cabin on October 10th, 2012. Their main quarry for this fishing expedition was supposed to be the trophy smallmouth bass that are known to inhabit the lake. Other friends were also fishing in another boat, and everyone was having a fun and successful go of it with many large smallmouth bass being caught and released during the first days of their trip, the largest bass they captured was only 1 ounce shy of 6 pounds, which was promptly released after photographs.
On that fateful muskie morning of October 13th, the trio set out in Joe’s boat during a small hailstorm just before 8 a.m. It was cloudy with a good chop on the water, and according to Joe; “perfect fishing conditions”. The morning started with Joe’s boat partners catching a couple of nice bass on live bait while he was casting with an artificial jerk bait style lure. However, after seeing these other fish caught, Joe decided to switch to what was working and almost immediately hooked up at about 8:30 a.m. “I felt the hit and set the hook within seconds… I knew right away this was a much bigger fish than the smallmouth we had been catching”.
“I remember that she started coming directly at the boat swimming near the surface right away, she looked so big, almost fake like the Jaws movie shark. She swam towards the boat coming to within 5’ or so, and then must have realized something was wrong because she shot away like a torpedo going airborne in kind of a sideways flip about 10’ out from the boat.”
“It was just crazy how big this fish looked then, and we immediately recognized it as a huge muskie”. They were surprised that the fish didn’t shake free after that awe-inspiring jump, or as she continued to haul and veer wherever she pleased on the light bass tackle, and as the fight ensued, the trio had no choice but to give chase with their bow-mounted trolling motor
About a 1/2 hour into the fight, feeling they might have something special on the line, they decided to Google “Michigan State Record Muskie” and found that in 2009 Kyle Anderson registered a 50 lbs. 8 oz. fish from Torch Lake, (Torch Lake is easily navigated to from Lake Bellaire). They all agreed this fish was close to Kyle's recent state record length of 56”, and they mutually decided that if they were lucky enough to get this leviathan in the boat, they were going to keep it.
The giant fish had other plans though and made multiple runs between the 5’ shallows and the depths of this 107’ deep clear lake while they continued to play their cat and mouse chase game with the electric trolling motor. With Joe always on the rod, and everyone working as a cohesive unit, they did an incredibly impressive job of not over pressuring the fish on the light tackle, yet; “staying close enough to avoid getting spooled”. Joe commented; “At least half of the spool (100-yards) of line was always left on my reel”, and he unselfishly gave much of the credit to his boat partners for always maintaining the proper distance between the fish and boat during the fight.
After about an hour of this intense tug-of-war between man and fish, Joe was getting tired from the constant pressure of the doubled over rod, his arms began to ache and only “keeping good ergonomic posture” kept him in the ring trading punches with this heavyweight champ. An interesting part of the story is that while tracking the fish in the shallow water, they were all amazed at how well camouflaged the beast was “it was almost invisible” according to Joe, and depending on the angle of the sun and waves, the only way they could identify it’s exact location was “spotting the sucker minnow that was still hanging from the corner of her mouth”.
After about an hour and a half Joe was beginning to question who would ultimately win this test of endurance, when at last his worthy adversary began to show some signs of fatigue, her runs away from the boat were getting noticeably shorter and less powerful than in the beginning stages of the fight. However, unbeknownst to Joe the plot was only thickening as the next chapter would be how to get almost 5’ of heavy slippery fish into a boat without the aid of a large landing net.
While the trio of Joe, Chuck, and Jason were skillfully staying one step ahead of the fish, they also began to second-guess themselves, and wondered if this “live log” was perhaps just a big sturgeon, they had these second thoughts only because it was simply “so much larger than any mounted muskie we had seen before”.However, after she slowed near the surface and they were able to get a good look at her, there was no further talk of it being a sturgeon.
During this incredibly lengthy battle their only focus was how to out-maneuver this deceptively fast and agile fish, thinking that at any second she would probably get off and they'd be back to bass fishing with “just another fish story”. The mood in the boat became more serious as they all realized this was going to be Joe's once-in-a-lifetime shot at something truly epic, and they collectively renewed their resolve to get this fish in the boat.
They had been talking with their friends Derek Barnes and Tony Mead, who were now floating nearby in their boat, and after discussing their limited options, they devised a plan to use two bass size nets, one that was already in Joe's boat, and one that was tossed over from Derek and Tony. They slipped one bass sized net over each end of the fish, and as Chuck and Jason began to lift simultaneously, the monsters’ weight simply broke both nets, and they could only watch as the fish slowly paddled away.
Miraculously, the single Gamakatsu hook held fast during this failed attempt, and after bringing her back to the boat again it was now on to plan B, which consisted of two life jackets that were tied together in a makeshift cradle. Joe commented; “We figured out pretty quick that they were too buoyant, and we would never be able to get them below the water deep enough for a serious attempt.”
Noticing these antics from the other boat, their friends Derek and Tony motored over again, and it was quickly decided that Derek would transfer into Joe’s boat to lend some much-needed assistance. Now these resourceful anglers had another set of hands for plan C, and with the giant fish just laying there on the surface almost completely spent, they were able to secure a rope lasso around the middle of her, then while one of them grabbed the head, another grabbed the tail, and a third pulled on the rope in a coordinated effort lifting the record fish over the gunwale “at approximately 10:30 a.m.”
The relief of getting the fish in the boat was short-lived though because once her belly touched the carpet the bell rang for one more round of desperate struggle, and only after a few tense moments were the determined anglers able to completely subdue their quarry. Finally, this muskie marathon match was over and Joe was able to set his rod down and breathe a sigh of relief with his friends. There's little doubt that the camaraderie and pride these men experienced that day will be forever etched in their angling memories.
The members of the MDMWRP have patiently waited for this day and we absolutely consider it an honor to have such a fine and deserving person as Joe Seeberger as the first entry in our program. Congratulations again to Joe and his boat partners for this truly amazing achievement.
Joe Seeberger (center) receiving his World Record Plaque. Will Schultz (right), MDMWRP Committee Member attending.
This fish was not only weighed on a certified scale in front of DNR Conservation Officer Steve Speigl, and DNR Biologist Patrick Hanshin directly after capture, it was subsequently weighed and measured by MDMWRP committee member Will Schultz in Michigan, and then yet again separately by Larry Ramsell just prior to the fish being opened up by the taxidermist in Minnesota that was making the replica. Larry discovered that even after it had been frozen for a full 4 months, the fish did not lose any weight and still “weighed just a hair over 58 pounds”. Further, the stomach was almost empty except for the skeletal remains of about a 13” fish; surprisingly there was only about 2 1/3 pounds of spawn present in the fish as well. With that said; the official weight of 58 pounds was almost all solid Muskellunge.
The MDMWRP is keenly aware that having someone verify the stomach contents is a somewhat stringent rule. However, this extra step in the verification process ensures our records are completely legitimate.
This fish was also measured by MDMWRP members Larry and Will to be 58” on a bump board, which is 1” shorter than the initial “over the fish” length measurement of 59”, that was taken with a conventional tape measure directly after capture. This 1” discrepancy is easily explained once our required bump board style of measurement is factored in. If fishing records are to be maintained they need to be consistent and accurate, using consistent measuring techniques. The members of the MDMWRP committee remain steadfast in our commitment to these higher standards of authentication.