Releases of potential record-breaking glamour-species fish are rare, but they do happen. Earlier this year, right here in West Virginia, a young man caught and released a muskie that might have earned a spot in the record books.
Luke King, 19, of Burnsville, was fishing for muskies during the spring spawning season when he hooked a gigantic female.
King was using heavy tackle, and it took him only about 5 minutes to bring the huge fish to net. When he lifted it from the water, he noticed eggs spewing from the fish's vent. Eager to return the not-yet-spawned fish to its nest, he and his fishing partner held her in the water alongside the boat and stretched a measuring tape along her length.
Biologists measure a fish by laying it out on a flat surface, such as a board, and measuring it from the tip of its snout to the end of its tail fin. King and his partner didn't have a surface long enough to accommodate the enormous muskie.
Supported at the head and the tail, the 53-inch fish had a bow in its body that cost it an inch or two. In addition, King didn't squeeze the lobes of the tail together, which likely cost him another inch.
A Division of Natural Resources biologist estimated that King's fish, if properly measured, might have stretched out to 55 inches. Even at 53 inches, it would have broken the current record of 52.7 inches. At 55, it would have shattered the mark.
But King wasn't interested in a record. He was interested in preserving the life of a huge female muskie so she could spawn hundreds more of her kind.
The Luke Kings and Mark Clemishires of the world are few and far between, but they come along occasionally.
Because they do, our rivers and lakes are better places to fish.