Rockford, Ill, Jan. 7 — My older brother, Nick, and Dad woke up at 4 a.m. to go fishing on the Pecatonica River. When dawn broke, they motored upriver and started fishing. At about 7 a.m. they caught their first fish, a 2-pound male walleye. But after that, fishing was slow, although they did snag several big carp and buffalo.
Around noon, Nick went down for a nap in the bow of the boat. Twenty minutes later, he woke up, cold and hungry, and asked Dad if they could go home.
“No, we’re staying ‘til dark,” Dad said.
Nick accepted his father’s final word on the subject, and got his pole out ready to troll. On this pole was a Rapala Fire Tiger minnow rap. The rod was Dad’s Falcon Lizard Dragger II. The reel, having once belonged to our grandfather, was an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5000. The line was ten-year-old Trilene 10 lb. test that belonged to our great grandfather, who founded a local walleye-fishing club here in Rockford.
Nick cast out and not thirty seconds had passed before he caught a fish.
“As we reeled it in, we assumed that it was a carp or buffalo,” Nick said. “The closer the fish got to the boat, we realized that this was a walleye -- and a big one!”
Dad netted the fish and successfully landed the fish into the boat. Their first instinct, as fishermen, was to keep fishing, but they soon agreed that they had to get this fish to a scale. They rushed to the boat launch, got the boat on the trailer, and drove to the local meat store, Pinnon’s, to use their state-certified scale. En route was DNR officer Brian Alt, who had been at Rock Cut State Park. Upon hearing the news, he rushed to Pinnon’s to verify the fish.
As soon as Officer Alt arrived, he weighed the fish on the certified scale. It looked to be a state record then, but they still needed certification from Illinois State Biologist, Dan Sallee. As Pinnon’s customers cheered and clapped, the fish was flopping around on the meat counter.
After reviewing the application for state record, they weighed the fish again and printed out a sticker with the recorded weight. Officer Alt filed all of the paperwork for Nick. He left the scene, and Nick and Dad celebrated Nick’s new state record.
Later that evening, Dad and Nick got the idea to try to keep the fish alive and moved it into a large, water-filled cooler with aerators. Hours passed and the two realized that maybe the fish needed the water it came out of. They called a friend, whom they knew had a horse trough, picked it up and at 9 p.m. drove out to the Pecatonica River once again, where they poured water into the 200-gallon tank.
They went out of their way to keep the fish alive, with Nick holding it upright in the cooler until his hands went numb. All through the night and into Sunday morning, they managed to keep the fish alive, but only just. At 8 a.m. the fish’s death was confirmed.
Luckily, Dan Sallee had contacted them and was driving in from Sterling at 3 p.m. that day. And Brian Alt had printed the application of state record for Nick and Dad to collect at Rock Cut State Park. When Dan Sallee arrived at our house, he reviewed the documents and inspected the fish. He immediately knew that Nick’s fish was in fact a state record.
The fish, having passed away despite Nick and Dad’s best efforts, will become a trophy mount.
Sabrina Tassoni is Nick’s younger sister. She is 13, going on 14 in February, and an 8th grader at Washington Academy in Rockford. She loves to write and hopes to be an author someday.