Nate Wellman holds up a 39-pound salmon caught on Lake Michigan on Saturday, July 10, 2021 during the Tournament Trail Muskegon Open fishing tournament. (Photo provided by Nate Wellman)

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MUSKEGON, MI – A crew of five fishermen hooked their biggest catch on Lake Michigan this weekend.

Nate Wellman, his son Jackson Cole, Josef Callender, Randy Hughes and Dominick Ferals landed a 39-pound salmon while competing in the Tournament Trail Muskegon Open fishing tournament on Saturday, July 10.

“You feel like it’s a stroke of luck, you feel like maybe you did something right. I’m still kind of in awe about it,” said Wellman, the boat’s captain.

About 10 minutes after setting lines in the water at the second run of the morning, Wellman said “the big ole sucker” was hooked by Callender.

The team wrestled the fish for about an hour, and it took two men to lift it in the boat. Wellman said they had no idea how big the catch was until seconds before netting the fish.

“Eyes lit up and high fives and hooting and hollering began. It was like it kept getting bigger,” he said. “It’s just a monster.”

Wellman, who has been chartering and guiding salmon fishers for over 20 years, has never seen a catch of this size.

“Bigger than a fish of a lifetime for about anybody,” he said.

Weighing in at 39.2 pounds, it was the heaviest fish in the history of the Tournament Trail, a 15-stop fishing circuit on Lake Michigan that started in 2003.

The Michigan chinook salmon record is 46 pounds and 43.5 inches long. It was caught in 1978 in the Grand River in Kent County, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources records.

Wellman said this salmon follows a 27-pounder caught at the Tournament Trail Grand Haven Offshore Challenge in June.

“Maybe we’re on a streak,” he said.

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