Last year, one of Tyler Strasenburgh’s friends suggested that he try fishing at a particular lake in Hancock County.
Strasenburgh, who had done some bass fishing growing up in Blue Hill, was eager to try his luck trolling somewhere closer to his Clifton home. It didn’t take him too long to figure out the perfect formula for catching big fish.
In June, Strasenburgh caught a 20-pound lake trout, also called togue, at his new favorite fishing spot, a lake that he declined to identify. The fish measured nearly 35 inches.
“People have said that’s the biggest one they’ve seen out of there in a long time,” said Strasenburgh.
Greg Burr, a fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, knows the water well. He said the togue is the largest reported to have been taken from the Hancock County lake since the 1980s.
“That 20-pound fish was 25 years old,” said Burr, who explained the fish, identified by its fin clipping, was stocked in 1998.
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The togue, the largest Strasenburgh has ever caught, is the first of four lunkers weighing at least 10 pounds that he has landed at the same place this year. Three of them came on consecutive Saturdays in June.
The other fish came in at 13.18 pounds (30 1/2 inches), 10.18 pounds (29 1/2 inches) and 13.73 pounds (33 inches), respectively.
“I learned it a little bit last year and then I really learned it this year,” Strasenburgh said of figuring out where and how to target the togue.
He said that in spite of the big togue he has caught, the fishing on his preferred water is by no means fast and furious.
“It’s super slow. Your speed and bait, everything has got to be just right,” he said. “Getting two fish a day is hard.”
For Strasenburgh, that means fishing with lead core line and a fluorocarbon leader, trolling a live 4 1/2-to-6-inch golden shiner at 1.5 miles per hour.
“Any faster than that, they’re not going to take it,” he said.
June 10 dawned overcast but by 9 a.m. the sun was starting to peek through the clouds. That’s about when Strasenburgh’s rod doubled over in the holder.
Since he was fishing alone, he deliberately and carefully reeled in his lead core, alternately putting the motor in neutral and then back in gear, hoping that he could maintain consistent tension and stay hooked up.
“It was pretty tough,” he said. “When I saw it beside the boat and I saw the size of the head, I was afraid I was going to lose it.”
But Strasenburgh successfully netted the fish and got it into the boat. He assumes the fish was probably suspended about 15 feet off the bottom when it struck.
A friend fishing nearby was able to join in the celebration.
Strasenburgh is eager to share the credit for his success. He hooked his big fish on a Charlie Dutton Sliding Rig purchased from Live Bait East Waterboro and has received good advice from Jake Rackliff at Cast and Call Guide Service in Shapleigh.
The 32-year-old Strasenburgh is enjoying the best fishing year of his life.
Burr said the angler should receive most of the kudos for his approach and his diligence in being able to catch so many nice fish.
“He tweaks everything that he does. He works hard at it,” Burr said. “The harder you work, the luckier you’re going to get. Most people won’t put in the effort like he will.”
The water in question is known to produce a number of togue over 10 pounds, Burr said. He said they’re feeding mostly on white perch and some jack smelts.
He explained that there are a handful of lakes and ponds in Hancock County, including Tunk Lake, Beech Hill Pond, Green Lake and Branch Lake, that have produced big togue in recent years. One weighed 24 pounds.
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Other lakes in the region capable of harboring 20-pound togue, Burr said, are Washington County’s West Grand and Pocumcus lakes and West Musquash Lake.
While the fish in the majority of those waters are native lake trout, Strasenburgh’s togue was taken from one of a few lakes where they are stocked by the state.
“A 20-pounder is kind of an anomaly,” Burr said of the 20-pound specimen from the unnamed lake. “It’s fairly rare for a stock fish to get up to that old and that size.”
Strasenburgh, who works as pro staff for Jesse Dicker’s Dream Chaser Lures in Lincoln, will soon be able to look at the fish whenever he wants. While he is a huge proponent of catch-and-release, he took the 20-pounder to a taxidermist to be preserved.
In the meantime, Strasenburgh is hoping to keep his hot fishing streak going.