May 10, 2023
By Lynn Burkhead
In a few weeks, Father's Day will arrive on the calendar. And for most dads who like to hunt and fish, all they want is some time spent with their kids, perhaps a good steak and a fishing trip to a favorite water. Gunnison, Colo., resident Scott Enloe is a family man and outdoorsman who understands all of that. He's a homebuilder by trade who has shared his passion for the outdoors with those he loves.
He recently shared an ultimate fishing adventure with his 26-year-old son Hunter that may result in world-record recognition for the massive lake trout they boated on May 5. The astonishing 73.29-pound trout caught at Blue Mesa Reservoir has gone viral around the world. The ginormous fish measured 47 inches long and had a girth of 37 inches. The fish was weighed on the angler’s digital scale and released.
Those numbers propel the big laker into both state- (by more than 20 pounds) and world-record (by more than a pound) status, pending certification by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the International Game Fish Association.
"It was sunny and cold, about 28 degrees when we got on the water last Friday," Enloe said. "It was opening day, with the ice finally coming off. There was still ice on the lake from winter, just three days earlier."
It was the start to an epic father-and-son day in the outdoors. That's the kind of thing Enloe does quite often. He and his son have both become specialists in the big lake trout game at Blue Mesa Reservoir and there really isn't much they don't do together in the outdoors world. From bowhunting big velvet-racked mule deer in the Colorado high country to chasing down big bugling bull elk in September to fly fishing for brown trout on nearby streams, the father-and-son outfit make quite a team in the outdoors.
In fact, they both have been a part of the USA Fly Fishing Team in the World Fly Fishing Championships, with Hunter winning gold three years in a row along with taking silver during his fourth year competing with Team USA. Late last week, however, they shared something that has garnered attention from around the world and right in their own backyard.
The fish has gone viral over the past several days, with a million plus TikTok video views, news stories and TV appearances, and even locals stopping Enloe at the gas pump to talk about the big fish.
After growing up in North Carolina, this is the second stint in Colorado for the Enloe family after a move to the Gunnison area seven years ago. Once a professional bass-tournament competitor, the move to Colorado’s 14ers country caused Enloe—who just returned from rebuilding homes in the Hurricane Ian-devastated region in Florida—to start studying how to catch Blue Mesa's biggest piscatorial residents. Last Friday, he passed his latest exam with flying colors.
‘Dad, what did you just catch?’
Fishing from a Tracker Pro V 175 with a 115 Mercury outboard, Enloe went to a familiar spot and began to study the depth finders, putting his experience to work in the quest for a big fish. "I’ve tried to study these fish, to figure them out, and to try and catch a really big one," said Enloe. "I wasn't trying to catch a 73-pounder, necessarily, but I have been trying to catch one that pushes past the 45- or 50-pound mark. We've caught plenty in the 30s, some in the low 40s, and that was the goal to get beyond that."
Since the lakers spawn in the fall, the key for Enloe was to imitate the kokanee salmon that are a huge part of a lake trout's springtime diet. Using an Abu Garcia baitcasting reel, a 7-foot, 11-inch 2X Heavy Okuma Guide Select rod, and 10-pound test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, the pair of anglers were soon in business with Hunter landing a 31-pounder around 6:45 a.m. to open the show.
After Hunter lost another similar sized fish, it was his father’s turn nearly an hour later when he tossed his one-ounce Gunnison Sports Outfitter jig head into the water and let it fall.
"I was using a six-inch tube bait on that jig head, nothing fancy," Enloe said. "This is vertical jigging and the tube jig itself was a kind of a bronze multi-colored pattern with some holographic stuff in it, along with a stout Trokar 6/0 hook too. It kind of resembles a kokanee salmon, or at least that's what you're hoping for."
When I asked if he would share some photos—including one of the tube jig he used—Enloe laughed and politely told me what dozens of other savvy anglers have said down through the years. "Well, you're probably not getting a picture of that jig. Sorry, lol!," Enloe said. "The company doesn't make them anymore. I'm trying to get them to start back (because) I only have three of them left. And that's our go-to bait."
Enloe wasn't hiding his tube jig from Blue Mesa's big lakers last week. Working his lure in the depths, he and his son were both focused on a pair of big lakers showing up on the boat's twin Lowrance Ti2 depth finders. They were sure that were observing a pair of 35-pound class fish. Then something out of this world showed up on the screen.
"All of a sudden, this fish came on the screen," Enloe said. "It's three times bigger than any other mark we've seen and is purple, teal and black, all in one big mark like we've never seen before. We know what a 35-pounder is like, and Hunter even asked if it was possibly two fish instead of one. I said I didn't know and focused my attention on my jig, which I could also see on the graph."
A second or two later, Enloe was hooked up with the fish of a lifetime. "It just nose-dived on the depth finder, down about five feet to my jig," he said. "I can see the jig at the bottom [of the graph]—we were in about 39 feet—and as it nose-dived, I turned my head and looked at the line, concentrating to see what was going on with it. All of a sudden, the line curls up a bit on top of the water and I felt the slightest tick on my rod. Whatever it was, I knew it had just bit and I set the hook hard.”
That started a crazy battle as Enloe wrestled the fish over the next 15 or 20 minutes, eventually getting it into the Frabill net—or more accurately, cradled on top of the net that Hunter was manning—and into the boat. “After taking a look at it, Hunter said ‘Dad, what did you just catch?’" Enloe said. "And I said I didn't know, but I knew that it had just smashed the Colorado state record."
Indeed, since the current Colorado lake trout record is 50-5, caught May 23, 2007 at Blue Mesa by Donald Walker. That lake trout had a reported length of 44 1/4 inches and girth of 34 3/8 inches. As impressive as a certified Colorado state record would be, more amazing distinction would be breaking the current IGFA all-tackle world record of 72 pounds pulled from Great Bear Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories by Lloyd Bull on Aug. 19, 1995.
The world of big lake trout is somewhat shadowy and mysterious, and it's worth noting that there have been social-media rumors and online stories of even bigger lake trout being caught over the last half-century. But in each case, the numbers either weren't verifiable or the fish were caught by subsistence means.
At this point, Enloe's big laker is a potential state and world record, because it was released and weighed on Enloe’s digital scale. Both the state and IGFA will have to take a closer look to make sure that the scale readout and measurement process were accurate. If he does get the IGFA All-Tackle world record by weight, that's great, and if not, it should be a slam dunk on the all-tackle length record since the current benchmark of 42.9 inches is easily exceeded by Enloe's laker measuring out to 47 inches.
Enloe says it never once crossed his mind to keep the trout, which could be upwards of 50 or 60 years old. He and his son completed the catch-and-release process in barely two minutes. That’s impressive considering that they had to do some extra work to get the big laker's head and gills into the oxygenated water of the live well, then get their scale and tape measure ready. Once they were handy, the fish was weighed, measured, photographed and released, all in very short order.
For what it's worth, some observers think Enloe's fish looks even bigger than reported. In fact, with the length and girth numbers punched into the online calculator offered by LakeTrout.org, the calculated weight zooms out even more to an astonishing potential weight of 80.42 pounds.
Enloe shrugs, says he knows he did the right thing by taking care of the fish and letting it go, and he'll have a replica made by Andy John’s Living Waters Fish Replicas out of Charleston, S.C.
"Andy is making me a replica along with three or four others since some stores around here want to display this big lake trout in their businesses too," Enloe said. "But he did tell me that it will be a little more expensive than usual because he doesn't have a form this big for a lake trout. So he'll have to custom make a form and charge me a little more, but I guess that's a good problem to have, right?"