Wisconsin Angler Lands Potential World-Record Brown in Lake Michigan

Roger Hellen likely set a new world record when he hauled this 41-pound, 8-ounce brown trout from Lake Michigan Friday July, 16, during the 35th annual Salmon-A-Rama Sportfishing Tournament in Racine, Wisconsin. Hellen (right, with fishing partner Joe Miller) boated the big brown while trolling off Wind Point, north of Racine.
The trout weighed 41.15 pounds on the official tournament scale. After Cheryl Peterson of the Wisconsin DNR (right) confirmed the fish as a brown, Hellen reweighed his catch on a certified scale. This time it topped out at 41 pounds, 8 ounces--an ounce heavier than the current world record brown, caught in Michigan's Manistee River last year.
The fish blows away the Wisconsin state record--a 36-pound, 8.9-ounce fish caught in Lake Michigan in 2004. It stretches 40 inches long and measures 27 inches around the girth.
Hellen and Miller hit the lake at 4:30 Friday morning and hooked the brown at 8 a.m. while trolling in about 40 feet of water. "We knew we had a good fish, but we were thinking something in the mid-20s. Good enough to take the lead in the tournament."
The brown hit Hellen's blue green dolphin spoon at a depth of 10 feet. He was trolling 27-pound test two-color lead core line on planer boards, with around 15 feet of 20-pound test mono line as a leader.
After a 30-minute battle, Hellen had the fish on the surface. That's when he and his buddy knew what they had. "I said, 'Holy s***, look at that fish,'" Hellen recalls. "When we first saw it, we knew it was really good."
"We weighed it on the boat, and the needle was bouncing between 37 and 44 pounds," Hellen says. "Motoring in, I told Joe this fish was going to be the state record." But it would be another couple of hours, after the weigh-in tent opened at 10 a.m., before he would learn that he had a potential world record.
Hellen said he was "90 percent confident" that he'd win the tournament, but he and Miller fished again on Saturday. "You know there are bigger fish out there and there's always a chance of somebody catching one."
But come Sunday, Hellen (center) and his 40-pounder were still the most impressive story of the tournament.
"There's absolutely no secret," he says. "We're pretty much doing the same thing everybody else is doing. It's just a matter of getting lucky and catching the big one."
Hellen, who grew up near Racine fishing with his father and who fishes Lake Michigan nearly every weekend, certainly picked a great time to get lucky: Landing the fish during the tourney earned him a $10,000 grand prize…
...not to mention a champagne spritz from his fishing partner.
Hellen will submit his catch to the International Game Fish Association and the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. If the weight holds up through the certification process, it would beat--by one ounce--the current world record recognized by both organizations.
If for some reason it doesn't hold up, Hellen says, he'll be just as thrilled with his catch of a lifetime.
"It's the biggest fish I ever caught, and it's bigger than anything my dad ever caught, which I guess adds a little to it," he says. "But the world record and all the attention doesn't make a difference."
"Seeing the fish surface and seeing the size of it in the boat--me and my buddy--that will be the most memorable part of it," Hellen added.

Photos courtesy of Mary Lee Both-Hetland.