King salmon caught in Ludington breaks 43-year-old record

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LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — A new state record chinook salmon, or king salmon, was caught in Ludington on Lake Michigan Saturday, breaking a 43-year-old record.

The young man who caught it had never fished for salmon before in his life.

Luis Martinez purchased his fishing license Friday and now finds himself at the center of a big story after he reeled in a 47.86 pound giant on the Icebreaker Charters boat.

“I honestly fell asleep the whole way until my mom said ‘You’re up’ and I was like, what? They handed me the fishing pole and I started reeling the thing in,” Martinez said.

The record-breaking salmon was caught around 7:30 a.m. and took half an hour to reel in.

“The first ten minutes were tiring, my arms were sore, I was ready to give up but my mom was yelling ‘Don’t give up, keep reeling it in,'” Martinez said. “The fish started to jump out of the water, you could see it and they were like so excited because it was huge. I was like it’s just a fish, there’s nothing special about it, at least that’s what I thought.” 

Luis Martinez and Bobby Sullivan with the record-breaking fish. (courtesy WMOM radio)

The 19-year-old compared breaking the more than four-decades old record — a 46.06 king salmon was caught in 1978 — to winning the lottery.

“I cannot believe it, it’s like I won the lottery, from a fisherman at least,” he said.

The fish was certified by Jay Wesley, the Lake Michigan basin coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources. After hearing about the catch, Wesley immediately drove up from Kalamazoo to certify the state record.

“They opened the top of the cooler and I think the words out of my mouth were ‘oh my god, this thing is huge,’ it didn’t even fit in the cooler really,” Wesley said. “I couldn’t have dreamed of a bigger fish and it was just in great shape.”

Wesley says this once in a lifetime fish is great news for the salmon population and their food situation.

“To have that big of a fish, a new state record, and to have other fish 30 pounds plus being caught daily, means we have great balance in the lake. There’s enough food for all the fish,” Wesley said.

The DNR will use data like this to determine stocking numbers in the future.

As for Martinez, his first trip out salmon fishing could not have gone better and he plans to go again.

“I will go back but I will never beat this fish,” Martinez said. “Everything is downhill from now on.” 

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