One BIG Fish


from Pete Taylor

Ice fishing is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy braving the sometimes-nasty winter weather, it can be very rewarding.

On January 18, 2013, Gordon Belanger of Lake Leelanau was fishing on South Lake Leelanau with his friends, Tony West (below), and John Mcpwethy when he landed a 15 pound brown trout. The fish was 30 inches long and had a girth of 17 ¾ inches. “I at first thought I had a large pike” commented Gordie, “but the excitement mounted when I finally saw the fish go by the hole and realized it was a brown trout”. It took a lot of fishing savvy to bring this big fish to gaff. Great job Gordie.

Brown trout are quite uncommon in Lake Leelanau, but a few are caught every year. Heather Hettinger, fisheries biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the manager of the Lake Leelanau fishery had this to say about brown trout in the lake:

“The last time the Fish Division stocked browns into South Lake Leelanau was 1991 (11,900 fish stocked in 1991), but we stocked browns into North Lake Leelanau until 2000 (14,480 fish stocked in 2000). The stocking in North Lake Leelanau was discontinued because Fisheries Division was not catching any of the stocked brown trout in our netting surveys.  In South Lake Leelanau the brown trout stocking was cut in favor of a walleye stocking program.  Brown trout survival was low, walleye were a more popular fishery with anglers, and South Lake Leelanau lacks the deep water habitat needed by trout in the summer time.

I hear of brown trout being caught by anglers in South Lake Leelanau on a fairly regular basis, with at least a couple of notable ones each year. This most recent fish caught by Mr. Belanger is certainly the largest I have had reported. This does not come as a total surprise to me – many of the larger lakes that I manage in northern Michigan have decent tributary streams, and often have a naturally reproducing population of brown trout. These streams offer good spawning and juvenile rearing habitat, and the lake offers a very productive food source as these fish grow into adulthood. The brown trout population in both North and South Lake Leelanau is being supported by natural reproduction in these streams, with the largest producer most likely being Victoria Creek.”

When asked what he did with his fish Gordie said he had it photographed and measured by a taxidermist so that he could have a replica made in the future if he so chooses. Then he had the fish smoked and ate it. Sounds like a good plan.

2 Replies to “One BIG Fish

  1. I was there at Dick’s when Tony West came in showing it off. That was one big fish, indeed.

    Tony West shows off Gordon Belanger's catch at Dick's

  2. hey everyone,
    my name is Dan and I am making the hike up north from south of Chicago and finally convinced the girlfriend to come up to do some ice fishing with me. I fish the south lake in the fall for walleye and figured I wanted to try out the ice bite. So that being said I came up earlier this January and had a ROUGH time, so me trying not to repeat my 1 fish weekend I’m looking for a bit of local help. I’m really just looking for some good eating fish; Perch, Gil, maybe a walleye or two. But ill be staying at the Garvin Cottages as usual (love it there Joan is a great lady) but really just looking at what depth there sitting and what they’re biting on. Thanks so much always a pleasure. -Dan

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