Thomas Knight, of Meredith, New Hampshire, caught the 37-pound fish at Big Diamond Pond in West Stewartstown, according to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
Thomas Knight’s catch beat by more than nine pounds the 1958 record, said Andy Schafermeyer, a fisheries biologist with the state Fish and Game Department.
According to Schafermeyer, Knight’s fish is the biggest lake trout caught in New England.
Knight hauled in the titanic trout last Tuesday while ice fishing on Big Diamond Pond in West Stewartstown.
“When I first set the hook and it started to go, I said, ‘It feels like it’s 40 pounds,’” Knight recalled Sunday.
An experienced angler who used to fish commercially, Knight said he knew he might have a record-setter and placed a call to Schafermeyer, who has heard plenty of fish stories in his day and had some verification to do. Schafermeyer said his initial skepticism faded once he got a look at the fish’s tail and head protruding from a cooler that Knight had packed with ice to transport the trophy catch.
“Once I unearthed it from this snow, it was pretty clear to me that this guy stood a really good chance to break the record,” Schafermeyer said.
Proving that took a while longer. Schafermeyer said the field scale he had with him topped out at 30 pounds, so he had to find a larger certified scale to get an official weight on Knight’s catch. Schafermeyer said he called a friend at United Parcel Service in Groveton, which had a scale that was large enough and verified that Knight, indeed, had broken the state record.
“I got goose bumps,” Knight said. “We knew, but I had to see it to believe it.”
The fish blew away the previous record of 28.5 pounds, which Schafermeyer said was set by a fisherman on Newfound Lake in Bristol.
“A lot of times when records get broken, they’re not broken by that much but, man, this guy crushed it,” said Schafermeyer, who writes the Union Leader’s Adventures Afield column. “I will go on record and say I think it’s going to stand for quite a while, too.”
Knight said he fished commercially for 25 years before surgeries on both hips sidelined him. That hasn’t stopped him from ice fishing. He said earlier this year he was with a friend who came close to the 1958 state record with a lake trout that weighed in at just under 28 pounds.
Knight said he and a few friends were out Tuesday in search of another “rogue togue” — another term for lake trout — when the group made history.
Knight said he couldn’t have done it without the help of his friends. Tony Riciputi helped keep the swivel near the end of the line from catching on a groove in the ice, then grabbed on to the fish’s head as it neared the surface. Knight’s girlfriend, Cynthia Baker, recorded video of the momentous catch.
“I’ve caught over 100 tunas. This was like fighting a small tuna,” Knight said. “All that tuna knowledge was what really helped me get this thing through the hole. I knew what to expect. Every horror show that can happen will happen, and somehow we kept preventing him and we got him on top of the ice.”
Knight said he received a letter from Fish and Game on Friday, certifying the state record that was also a regional best.
He said the record trout is being mounted by Tim’s Taxidermy in Alfred, Maine, and will eventually be on display at George’s Diner in Meredith.
Knight said that Owen Price, the diner’s owner, offered to cover the taxidermy costs if he could house Knight’s big catch in the restaurant for two years.
“I thought that was a pretty good deal,” Knight said. “Everybody in town will be able to come and see it.”
Knight said he was also hopeful that his fish may have a brother or sister somewhere beneath the ice in northern New Hampshire.
“I have a nickname — ‘Tommy Cod’ — but they changed it to ‘Tommy Togue’ this week,” Knight said. “I feel as though I got an upgrade.”