Steve Zielinski caught this beauty during a recent charter fishing trip out of Duluth on Lake Superior. They were using spoons in 80 feet of water. "I fought it for about 10 minutes,'' he said.
His charter captain examined the fish and said it was a rare Atlantic salmon -- the first he had seen in 20 years. That would be unusual for the Duluth area but not unheard of. The Department of Natural Resources hasn't stocked Atlantic salmon in Lake Superior since 1992. But the Michigan DNR stocks them -- 300 miles to the east at the St. Mary's River area.
"They are so rare here,'' said Ted Halpren, assistant area fisheries manager for Minnesota DNR in Duluth. "I've heard of people catching them, but I've only seen one in 20 years.''
Based only on Zielinski's photo, Halpren guessed it was indeed an Atlantic salmon.
But University of Minnesota associate professor Jay Hatch, associate curator of fishes at the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History, said he believes the fish is a brown trout.
"If this is an Atlantic, it would be the most atypical and unusual one I have ever seen,'' he said.
But both Halpren and Hatch said it's impossible to positively identify the fish without having it in hand to examine other identifying features.
That means the fish likely will remain a mystery -- because Zielinski and his family ate it.