Tom Healy’s phone has been ringing off the hook. People he hasn’t heard from in 25 years have called to congratulate him. Fishermen around the world have heard about him and wish they were him.
All because of a big trout.
Healy, 66, a retired construction executive and TU member since 1995, was fishing for king salmon on Michigan’s Manistee River when he hooked into the fish of a lifetime–a 41-pound, 7-ounce, 43.75-inch brown trout, which breaks the species’ state record and may well have broken the world record. He’ll know soon.
Healy and a fishing companion were “testing crank baits in log jams…and then this silly fish showed up,” he said. After 15 minutes, he landed the trout using spinning gear and a No. 8 shad-colored Rapala Shad Rap.
“I was a retired old guy looking for some peace and quiet on the river,” Healy said. “And then, it was like all hell broke loose.”
Tim Roller, a guide with the Cadillac Mich.-based Ultimate Outfitters, had local fish and game officials verify the fish’s size and weight. Although Healy, mostly a catch and release fisherman, said he thought about returning the six-year-old trout to the river, but realized that “this fish was a special fish and it deserves recognition.” Now, wrapped in a towel in a freezer, the trout will be brought to a taxidermist where fish biologists will be able to gather more information about its genetics. The sex of the fish is unknown, Healy said.
The current world record brown trout is held by an angler who caught a 40-pound, 4-ounce brown trout caught in 1992 on the Little Red River in Arkansas. As for future fish, it’s a saltwater species that Healy dreams of landing, after fishing for Michigan steelhead this fall, a pursuit he says is his passion.
“One day, maybe I’d like to catch a tarpon on a fly. I’ve hooked into one in the 135-pound class (on spinning gear), but it broke off.”
Reflecting on this lifetime achievement, Healy says he doesn’t know why he was so lucky to catch the fish.
“Why me? I don’t know. I’ve had people tell me, ‘Tom, it’s meant to be.’ You’ve made hundreds of thousands of casts. It’s your time.’”