CHELAN — The state-certified scale at Lake Chelan Community Hospital is used mostly to weigh newborn babies.
So medical staff stood slack-jawed Monday as Wenatchee fisherman Phil Colyar plopped the giant fresh-caught mackinaw atop the digital device and crossed his fingers.
He knew the state record for such a fish was 35 pounds, 7 ounces. “We all stood there gaping as the weight went up and up,” he said. “Twenty pounds, 30 pounds, 33, then 34. It stopped at 35 pounds, 5 ounces and all of us — me, my fishing buddy, doctors, nurses — all of us held our breath.”
The numbers then jumped to 35 pounds, 10 ounces — beating the state record by 3 ounces — and, said Colyar, a roaring cheer went up from the staff.
“That caught me by surprise,” he laughed. “I’m charged up, sure, but could these medical professionals really get so excited about a big fish?”
Who wouldn’t? The 44-inch-long monster from 270 feet below the surface of Lake Chelan was proclaimed Tuesday as the biggest mackinaw on record to be hooked in Washington State. A tape measure looped around its ample girth showed 28 inches.
Travis Maitland, a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the record Tuesday afternoon. “That’s one big fish,” he said.
For final verification, Maitland measured and weighed the fish, and also used a portable ultrasound device to check for “anomalies” that might be inside. There have been problems in the past with anglers inserting heavy items to boost a fish’s weight, he said.
Colyar, 56, a lifelong fisherman and co-owner with wife Carrie of Colyar Jewelry in Wenatchee, caught the lunker around 10 a.m. Monday up-lake near Kelly’s Resort on Lake Chelan’s south shore. He and Jack Stagge, fishing buddies for more than 22 years, were using a fish finder to “mark” activity deep beneath the surface.
“We knew there were fish down there,” said Colyar. “We just didn’t know how big.”
Colyar had stopped the day before at Hooked on Toys, a Wenatchee sporting goods store and fishing headquarters, to look for a new lure to replace his old and ragged ones. “They recommended the Flatfish U20 in a color I’d never tried before,” he said. “Purple.”
Purple Flatfish U20s were sold out at Hooked on Toys by Monday afternoon.
Using an 18-pound-test line, Colyar dropped the Flatfish lure to 270 feet and — whammo! — hooked the mackinaw to begin a 35-minute battle to reel him to the surface. “He’d give a little and I’d reel him in,” said Colyar. “Then I’d give a little and he’d grab the advantage.”
Although worried the line would snap — “I was sweating bullets” — Colyar said he knew if played it right the mackinaw would tire before he did. “It was close,” he said. “Luckily, I had the best guy I know (Stagge) to help me land the fish. He knew right off this could be a record catch.”
Colyar brought the game fish to the hospital — raced right up to the emergency room doors — on the advice of well-known local fishing guide Anton Jones, who coincidentally was at the dock when Colyar and Stagge arrived with the big mac.
Jones knew the hospital had one of the few state-certified scales in the area, said Colyar. Such a scale is necessary to verify a new state fishing record, along with two reliable witnesses and an inspection by experts from Fish and Wildlife.
Fish and Wildlife experts measured the mackinaw Tuesday afternoon at Tru-to-Life Taxidermy in East Wenatchee. Owner Jeff Reeves had also taxidermied the last record-breaking mackinaw, also caught in Lake Chelan on 2001.
Colyar said he fishes year-round with buddy Stagge and will continue to search Lake Chelan for those giant mackinaws. “There are a lot of big fish in the lake,” said Colyar. “I think there are bigger ones still there, down deep. That’s for sure.”