May 10, 2023
When homebuilder Scott Enloe launched his boat onto the chilly waters of Colorado’s Blue Mesa Reservoir late last week, he was hoping to catch something big from its depths.
On opening day of the season at Blue Mesa following ice off, he did more than that, catching a massive lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) that tips the digital scales to a staggering weight of 73.29-lbs. Amazingly, that mark that is more than one pound above the existing International Game Fish Association world record for the char species native to northern North America, along with some western and northeastern U.S. waters where it has been introduced.
While he knew this laker was huge from start to finish—it also measured out at 47-inches long and 37-inches in girth—Enloe’s first real inkling of what had been caught came when he and his son Hunter tried to weigh the fish on his 26-year old son’s digital scales. When the weight registered on the device, it simply read “FULL.”
With that 50-lb. scale bottomed out, the father-son team of anglers found Scott’s digital scale in the boat, which goes up to 100-pounds. When it settled in, the pair was left speechless, looking at a number of more than 73-pounds.
After a lifetime of fishing—Enloe notes he was once fished competitively in professional bass derbies and was a multi-year member of the USA Fly Fishing Team—the 50-year old Gunnison resident had a fish that was a “Mega Monster Giant!” as his son described it.
Check out video of the catch:
The catch capped an amazing hour of fishing on the season’s first day, one that Scott and Hunter will never forget only three weeks after Enloe returned from rebuilding damaged homes in the Sanibel Island/Fort Meyers area after Category 5 Hurricane Ian devastated southwest Florida last September.
Back home in Colorado—his second stint in the Centennial State following a move back seven-years ago after growing up in North Carolina—Enloe was more than ready to hit the water after a winter that never wanted to end. With record cold and snow gripping much of Colorado and the western U.S. earlier this year, the angler says that the ice on Blue Mesa was as much as 40-inches thick on some occasions this past winter.
“It was sunny and cold, about 28 degrees when we got on the water last Friday,” said Enloe of the May 5, 2023 outing. “It was opening day, with the ice finally coming off. There was still ice on the lake from winter, just three days earlier.”
Since moving back to Colorado, Enloe has developed a passion for bowhunting elk with his son, fly fishing on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison, and chasing the big lake trout that swim in the clear depths of Blue Mesa. So much so that his son is an area guide and Enloe bought a Tracker Pro V 175, complete with a Mercury 115 and Lowrance electronics front and back, to figure out how to catch these big lakers.
“I’ve tried to study these fish, to figure them out, and to try and catch a really big one,” said Enloe. “I wasn’t trying to catch a 73-pounder, necessarily, but I have been trying to catch one that pushes past the 45- or 50-lb. mark. We’ve caught plenty in the 30s, some in the low 40s, and that was the goal to get beyond that.”
After being third in line at the boat ramp, Enloe and his son were soon underway, heading to a spot later than usual on the calendar.
“Normally we’re fishing for these lakers the second week of April, but after this winter, everything is a full month behind schedule with the ice getting off late,” he said. “Usually by this time, the fish have started out into deeper water in their seasonal pattern and they can be tougher to catch out there in the super deep water that can be 200, 250, and even near 300 feet sometimes.”
Since the lakers spawn in the fall, the key for Enloe now is to imitate the kokanee salmon that are a huge part of a lake trout’s springtime diet. Using an Abu Garcia baitcasting reel, a 7’11” 2X Heavy Okuma Guide Select rod, and 10-lb. test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, the pair of anglers was soon in business with Hunter landing a 31-pounder around 6:45 a.m. to open the show.
After Hunter lost another similar sized fish, it was Scott’s turn nearly an hour later when he tossed his one-ounce Gunnison Sports Outfitter jig head into the water and let it fall.
“I was using a six-inch tube bait on that jig head, nothing fancy,” said Enloe. “This is vertical jigging and the tube jig itself was a kind of a bronze multi-colored pattern with some holographic stuff in it, along with a stout Trokar 6/0 hook too. It kind of resembles a kokanee salmon, or at least that’s what you’re hoping for.”
As Enloe worked the lure, he was hoping to catch a big laker out of a pair of fish showing up on the Lowrance Ti2 depth finders: “We see two big fish and they looked like 35-pounders.”
But what happened next was something that neither Scott nor his son were prepared for.
“All of a sudden, this fish came on the screen,” said Enloe. “It’s three times bigger than any other mark we’ve seen and is purple, teal, and black, all in one big mark like we’ve never seen before. We know what a 35-pounder is like, and Hunter even asked if it was possibly two fish instead of one. I said I didn’t know and focused my attention on my jig, which I could also see on the graph.”
A second or two later, Enloe’s day changed dramatically for the good.
“It just nosedived on the depth finder, down about five feet to my jig,” he said. “I can see the jig at the bottom—we were in about 39-feet—and as it nosedived, I turned my head and looked at the line, concentrating to see what was going on with it. All of a sudden, the line curls up a bit on top of the water and I felt the slightest tick on my rod. Whatever it was, I knew it had just bit and I set the hook hard.”
That’s when the angling version of all-heck broke lose for Enloe and his son.
“It came to the surface within what seemed like two or three seconds,” said Scott. “We saw it come up, then Hunter moved to get the trolling motor up and out of the water, and the fish saw the boat and turned and went straight back down.
“I had seen the fish briefly, and Hunter had not, and I told him that it was a 50-plus pounder. He told me later on that when I said that he didn’t believe me because we’ve never caught one in that range. And to be honest, it wasn’t the craziest fighting fish, just pure weight on the other end.”
Things got even crazier after a 15 to 20 minute battle as Scott wrestled the giant laker towards the boat.
“It was just a monster, a huge fish that wouldn’t fit into the net,” he said. “I have the biggest Frabill net you can buy and it wouldn’t fit, not even close.”
With the left-handed angler holding his rod on that side, Enloe used his right hand to grab the net so that Hunter could get both hands on the netting process down below at the waterline.
“It wasn’t really in the net when we finally got it landed,” laughed Scott. “It was kind of cradled on top of the net and we wrestled it up into the boat. After taking a look at it, Hunter said ‘Dad, what did you just catch?’ And I said I didn’t know, but I knew that it had just smashed the Colorado state record.”
The current Colorado lake trout record was set on May 23, 2007 when Donald Walker landed a 50-pound, 5-ounce laker at Blue Mesa. That lake trout had a reported length of 44 1/4 inches and a girth of 34 3/8 inches.
Prior to that, the Colorado state record was a 46-pound, 14-ounce laker that reportedly measured at 42 1/2 inches in length when it was caught at Blue Mesa in 2002 by angler Larry Cornell.
As impressive as a certified Colorado state record would be, what would be even more amazing is the IGFA world record that could be forthcoming after taking a glance at the 2023 edition of the IGFA World Record Game Fishes book.
In that recently released volume, the IGFA All-Tackle World Record lake trout is a 72-pound laker pulled from Great Bear Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories, a benchmark caught by Lloyd Bull on Aug. 19, 1995.
It’s worth noting here that there have been social media rumors and online stories of even bigger lake trout being caught in the last half century, but the numbers either weren’t verifiable or the fish was caught by subsistence methods.
It’s also worth noting that Enloe’s big laker is a potential state and world record. That’s because he chose to let the big fish go since he’s a conservation minded catch-and-release angler who says it never once entered his mind to kill this lake trout that could be upwards of 50 or 60 years old. So dedicated is he to carefully caring for these demons of the deep, Enloe and his son got the catch-and-release process completed in barely two minutes.
That’s impressive considering that they had to do some extra work to get the big laker’s head and gills into the oxygenated water of the live well, then get their scale and tape measure ready. Once they were handy, the fish was weighed, measured, photographed and released, all in very short order.
Now, both the state and the IGFA will have to take a closer look to make sure that Enloe’s digital scale readout was accurate, along with the measurement process too. If he does get the IGFA All-Tackle world record by weight, that’s great, and if not, it should be a slam dunk on the All-Tackle length record since the current benchmark of 109 cm (or 42.9 inches) is easily exceeded by Enloe’s laker measuring out to 47-inches.
Finally, it’s interesting that to some observers, Enloe’s fish looks even bigger than reported. In fact, with the length and girth numbers punched into the online calculator offered by LakeTrout.org, the calculated weight zooms out even more to an astonishing potential weight of 80.42-pounds.
Enloe shrugs, says he knows he did the right thing by taking care of the fish and letting it go, and he’ll have a replica made by Andy John’s Living Waters Fish Replicas out of Charleston, S.C.
“Andy is making me a replica along with three or four others since some stores around here want to display this big lake trout in their businesses too,” said Enloe. “But he did tell me that it will be a little more expensive than usual because he doesn’t have a form this big for a lake trout. So he’ll have to custom make a form and charge me a little more, but I guess that’s a good problem to have, right?”
Enloe is amazed at the angling world’s reaction to the fish, especially since he didn’t put it on his own Facebook page initially. Still, the story has gone viral and he’s fielding phone calls from news outlets all over America in the days since. It looks like he’ll even be live on the Fox News morning show later this week.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said. “I sent it (photos) to seven or eight of my good friends, then all of a sudden, my phone is off the hook. I’ve had nine phone calls since you and I have been on the phone and it’s been non-stop like that since last Saturday morning.”
Sarah, Enloe’s wife of 31 years had just informed Scott during our Tuesday call that he and the fish had been on Animal Planet. So too are his daughters, 30-year old Hailey, who is married and lives in North Carolina, and his 11-year old daughter Bella who has had school friends ask about the fish.
The viral attention coming in is as impressive as the big fish is too. Enloe said he’s received more than 800 phone messages (texts and/or calls), along with millions of views on Tik Tok.
“A buddy of mine posted it (the video) on TikTok, and this morning,, it had over 600,000 views,” he said. “Someone else here in town also posted it on TikTok, and that posting had over 700,000 views. Altogether, that’s 1.3 million views for this big fish. I guess the word is out.”
Indeed it is, thanks to a world class lake trout that zoomed into Enloe’s life on a cold, spring morning with Colorado’s snow-capped 14ers looming in the distance on opening day. Now that’s a fishing trip that will be hard to top, even at Blue Mesa.
“It was a crazy day and I hope it happens to every other angler in their lifetime,” said Enloe. “This is every fisherman’s dream and I’m living it and I’m blessed and thankful for it all.”