record burbot and whitefish
Ken Maggiore with his two record fish. Ken Maggiore

Ken Maggiore, 19, of Chicago, broke the Illinois burbot and whitefish records on March 22 in the span of 30 minutes. He was fishing near Montrose Bay on Lake Michigan during the once-in-a-lifetime experience, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Maggiore’s day didn’t start off very well, though, as he watched his friends land numerous cohos throughout the morning. But his first bite, which didn’t come until 11 am, turned out to be a record fish that was foreign to some of his buddies.

“Everybody was asking, ‘What … is a burbot?’ I said, ‘You’re taking that thing to Henry’s. That’s a state record,’” said Tommy Krysciak, one of the anglers in Maggiore’s group.

However, Maggiore was skeptical and kept fishing, hooking into his second state record just 30 minutes later. This time, though, it was a monster whitefish, which Maggiore knew was one for the books. Still, he put it on a stringer and continued fishing for few more hours until he landed the coho that he came there for. Finally, at 2 pm, Maggiore headed to Henry’s, a local baitshop, to get the fish on a certified scale. The following day he had the burbot and whitefish verified by a state biologist, and has since become the official record holder.

“I am still in shock,” Maggiore told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The burbot weighed 9.3 lbs, beating the previous record of 8.85 lbs. The whitefish weighed 7.5 lbs, beating the previous record of 6.55 lbs. Both were caught from shore on shrimp fished on the bottom.

Big whitefish are hardly news to Chicago anglers, though, as the Illinois whitefish record has now been broken three times in 33 days. Similarly, Indiana has had its whitefish record broken five times since 2012. It’s not a good sign for Lake Michigan, either, as it shows that native scud populations are decreasing, while invasive round goby populations are increasing.

“Gobies are found in abundance among the rocks and boulders of our harbors and nearshore areas throughout much of the year. Foraging whitefish may be drawn to these nearshore areas when the temperature is right to feed on gobies or other prey, which increases their chances of encountering baited hooks of anglers fishing nearshore for perch, drum or other species,” said Vic Santucci, program manager for Lake Michigan.

This likely isn’t the last time Illinois will see its whitefish record fall.