Ryan Costain wasn’t really ready to catch the lake trout of a lifetime on Saturday afternoon, when he and his girlfriend decided to spend a couple of hours on Phillips Lake in Dedham. In fact, when the fish struck his lure, Costain was a bit busy on the other side of the boat.

“My girlfriend was driving the boat and I was messing with the other downrigger, trying to get it set,” the 26-year-old Holden man explained. “There was some shallower water [that we had trolled through earlier] and I was trying to lower [the downrigger] and [the line] had come unclipped.”

And when the strike did come —- on the rod in the other downrigger — he first didn’t believe that he’d even hooked a fish.

“I looked over and the rod was just bent right over. I thought we had bottom,” Costain said. “I grabbed the rod and [my girlfriend] said there was about 60 feet of water there and I thought, ‘It’s not bottom, then,’ because I knew I only had [my lure] down about 20 feet or so.”

At that point, Costain realized he had another problem: The other downrigger was still deployed, and he didn’t want what felt like a large fish to tangle itself on the downrigger cable or the other fishing line he had out.

Thus began a delicate ballet during which Costain reeled up the downrigger ball and cable, reeled in the line on the other rod and continued to hold off the fighting fish with his other hand.

“That was pretty tricky,” Costain admitted. “But I got everything [reeled] up.”

With that job done, Costain was left to focus on the fish itself — one that he quickly realized was larger than any togue he’d caught before.

“Instantly I knew [it was big], Costain said. “I was guessing it was probably eight to 10 pounds until I saw it for the first time. It was about six feet down from the top and it swam by. I told [my girlfriend], that’s got to be 30 inches or better.”

Costain’s estimate was correct. It was.

Costain said he fought the fish for about 25 minutes and tried, on one occasion, to land it with a telescoping net that can be extended to about 12 feet. That try failed. A bit later, after bringing the togue back to the surface, he successfully netted the bruiser. Then he had another problem.

“I threw the rod on the floor and started sliding the net across the rail of the boat because I couldn’t pick it up,” Costain said. “I had it telescoped out and he was probably eight feet out when I netted him.”

Costain slid the net closer to the boat and when he could reach the basket of the net, was finally able to heft the fish aboard.

The lake trout was one he’ll talk about for a long time: It measured 34 inches long and weighed 16.5 pounds. Costain said the biggest togue he’d caught before Saturday had weighed five or six pounds.

The excited angler’s day wasn’t over yet, however: After heading ashore and hopping into the water to load his boat onto the trailer, he realized that his cellphone was still in his pocket.

“I think it might have had something to do with [the excitement of catching a big fish], Costain said with a laugh. “I dried it out that night and got it working again.”

And as for the fish? Costain said it will take a position of honor upon his wall.

“My girlfriend told me, ‘You’ve got to get this one [mounted],” Costain said. “I said, ‘You’re right. I’ll probably never catch anything bigger that that in Maine.’”

Any-deer permit deadline looms

If you’re hoping to target deer without headgear come hunting season, an important deadline is approaching: Online applications for the state’s any-deer permit lottery close at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 15.

If you were hoping to mail in a paper application, you’re sadly out of luck. That deadline passed on July 29.

The vast majority of Maine deer hunters will head afield targeting only antlered deer. Those who possess an any-deer permit — the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has allotted just 26,390 for the upcoming season — will be allowed to harvest does or fawns as well.

The permit lottery will be held Sept. 9.

According to the DIF&W website, permits are based on management goals for each Wildlife Management District. In those districts where deer populations are low, few or no any-deer permits are given out. In those with more healthy deer populations, more are allotted.

And it’s no secret that the deer herd is struggling in much of the state. This year any-deer permits will be allotted in only 12 of Maine’s 29 WMDs. The highest number of permits available in a single WMD: 5,670 in district 21, which includes Saco, Gray and Raymond.

To register for this year’s drawing go to www.mefishwildlife.com.

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...