Published June 17, 2010, 03:00 PM

Outdoors blog: Angler catches 42-inch lake trout on Superior

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

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Don Zirbes catches 42.6-inch lake trout today

Don Zirbes holds the 42.6-inch, 36.1-pound lake trout he caught this morning on Lake Superior. He was trolling off the mouth of the French River. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources photo)

     Don Zirbes knows when it’s time to catch big lake trout. It’s always a few days after the little Kamloops rainbows are stocked along the North Shore.

    “As soon as they start stocking, you start catching,” said Zirbes, who lives on the North Shore between Duluth and Two Harbors.

     Zirbes caught his largest lake trout ever while trolling alone on Lake Superior off the mouth of the French River Thursday morning. The laker was 42.6 inches long and weighed 36.1 pounds.

     It was weighed and measured at the French River fisheries office by Steve Geving, Department of Natural Resources fisheries specialist.

    Zirbes took the fish there so that DNR officials could take an ear bone from the fish and have it aged.

    “We’re guessing it’s 25 or older,” Geving said.

    Zirbes caught the laker about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, trolling a minnow imitation plug in 12 feet of water. Lake trout often come into shallow water to feed on forage fish, including yearling Kamloops rainbow trout that are stocked this time of year by the DNR.

    “This was my biggest,” Zirbes said. “I’ve caught a 31-pounder, a 28, a number of 18s and 20s. My best day, I got a 25, a 23 and a 19. They were all full of baby ‘loopies.’”

     Zirbes is a dedicated Kamloops rainbow trout angler and protective of the “baby loopies.” He enjoys catching the big lake trout, but he doesn’t kill them to eat them.

     “The keeping part is just to preserve the loopers,” he said.

      He and Geving examined the stomach contents of the lake trout at the DNR office Thursday morning. They found three small rainbow trout in it.

     Zirbes said he plans to give the fish away to someone who will smoke it.