Pike & Muskie Fishing photo

An angler from Green Bay, Wisconsin, caught the fish of a lifetime–and didn’t even know it.

No stranger to catching big fish, John Grover was targeting walleyes on May 9, 2013 when he hooked something notably larger. He proceeded to fight the 64-inch fish for almost an hour on 17-pound test line, even after his reel blew out, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported. He landed the fish, measured it, took a few photos, and released it back into the bay.

“I didn’t really think anything of it when I caught it. I just knew it was big,” Grover told the Green Bay Press Gazette. “To be honest, I don’t fish for muskies, so I just imagined the record fish to be like 70 or 71 inches until I came in to (Smokey’s) bait shop and talked to him.”

Grover asked Jeff Tilkins, owner of Smokey’s on the Bay Bait Shop, about the size of the muskie mounted on the wall of the bait shop. After finding out that it was a 52-inch fish, Grover casually mentioned that he just caught one larger. Everyone thought he was joking until he pulled out his smartphone.

“When he showed us the picture, I could not believe it. There it was, and just look at the body. That fish has at least a 30-inch girth, there is no doubt in my mind about that,” Tilkins said.

It was then that Grover realized he may have hooked, landed, and released a possible world-record muskie. Tilkins posted Grover’s photo on the shop’s Facebook page, and so far, it’s received mixed reactions–some believe the fish is smaller than stated.

“This guy has absolutely no reason to lie about this fish. When he came in here, he was more interested in what kind of catfish bait to buy then he was showing me this picture,” Tilkins said. “People are trying to discredit him for no reason. He’s getting no extra benefit out of this. He just happened to catch a potential world-record muskie out of season, and it’s still swimming in the bay somewhere.”

The current world IGFA all tackle muskie world record is 67.5 pounds set by another Wisconsin angler in 1949. While the reported dimensions would put Grover’s fish at an estimated 72 pounds, he cannot submit the catch for consideration because it was never weighed on a certified scale.