Calvin Klopp of Gray knows that ice fishing requires skill and experience, but it never hurts to have a little luck on your side.
Klopp rented a lakeside camp on Schoodic Lake late last month with a gorgeous view of Katahdin from the ice. Sketchy ice conditions in January had forced him to change the dates of his stay.
Klopp was on the ice for a bluebird day on Wednesday, accompanied by his friend Andrew Bowden, who had arrived to fish for the day. They hit the ice at 6:30 a.m. and endured a fairly typical Schoodic experience.
“I jigged up four togue and he got one cusk first thing, then we had nothing pretty much from 8:30 until I got that flag around 5:30 in the evening,” Klopp said Friday while back out on the ice.
By then, Bowden had headed home. Unfortunately, he wound up missing the highlight of the 47-degree day.
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The late flag proved to be a memorable one for Klopp, who had baited his line with a small smelt. He set the hook, kicking off a 20-minute tug of war.
“It was fairly low key, the fight,” he said of the encounter with a feisty landlocked salmon. “It made a lot of big runs, and I had it up to the hole four or five times — right into the hole, too — and it just kept thrashing around and would take off again.”
Klopp was extra careful trying to land the fish, especially after he saw the size of it as it swam past the hole. He was fishing with a 6-pound test line and didn’t want to risk snapping it.
“It finally tired itself out enough to where I could put both hands down into the water and scoop the thing out onto the ice,” he said.
The salmon, which Klopp said was shaped like a football, was a beauty. It measured 26 inches long, weighed 7.25 pounds and had a girth of 15 inches.
He later confirmed with another scale that the weight was correct.
And it turns out Klopp’s concerns about horsing the fish in were justified. It obviously wasn’t the first life-and-death struggle for this salmon.
“It had three other hooks in it with broken line, so it had been hooked before for sure, but I don’t know if it was ever landed or not,” Klopp said. “They all had about 2 or 3 inches of line hanging off them still.”
Klopp scrambled to take a few photos, including the selfie of him cradling the salmon like a baby.
“It was so hard to get a good picture because it was so big,” he said.
Klopp said it was the largest salmon he has ever caught, surpassing a couple of 5-pound specimens landed at Long Lake in Aroostook County.
After taking the measurements, he performed quick surgery to remove the hooks embedded in the fish’s mouth. He rewarded the salmon for its resilience.
“I’m not a trophy guy. I’ll throw them back,” said Klopp, who instead is considering having a replica made to preserve the experience.
Klopp’s trophy salmon is now hook-free, and other anglers have the opportunity to pursue it.
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Klopp said he spends a considerable amount of time ice fishing each winter because he is so busy during the summer months. This season was a challenge because of the late ice throughout the state, but he also traveled to the Allagash area and East Grand Lake.
And the delay put him on Schoodic on the right day at the correct time.
When he does wet a line in the summertime, it’s to pursue tuna. And even though Klopp has caught fish weighing up to 1,000 pounds, the Schoodic Lake salmon was special for him.
“This fish is the most impressive thing I’ve ever caught in freshwater, and it compares right up there to the biggest thing I’ve ever gotten in saltwater,” he said.