It started with a phone call from a neighbor.
Did I want his sister's husband's fish?
This wasn't some zealous angler trying to empty his creel so he could go back out fishing another day.
This fish was a state record.
It wasn't until I was standing in that neat living room, half filled with packing boxes, in the little house just a block from this little house, that I got the full story. All the while standing there, staring up at this huge fish, trying to figure out how I was going to fit it in my rig.
It was, and is, our state's record for a Tiger muskie, a hybrid cross between a muskellunge and a northern pike. Forty-nine inches long, 29 pounds heavy.
The angler, the neighbor's sister's husband, was a lifelong fisherman, who lived for the opportunities to wet a line.
This was his pride and joy. The first thing you saw as you stepped in the the front door and turned to the right.
I say "was", because he is no longer with us. One of those gentlemen who died early in life, but quickly. A massive coronary, inside his own home. As his widow explained, the EMT said he was dead before he hit the floor. She was past the hard grieving now, able to retell the story told so many times that the tears no longer flowed.
Her voice choked a couple times, though.
But now, with her ties to this fisherman's paradise severed, she was preparing to move back East, to be close to her children and grandchildren.
So. What to do with this huge fish?
There was a step-son who wanted it. I pointed out the sentimental value such a thing might have to another angler.
But no, her husband loved this state.
His fish should stay here.
I had to reassure her at least twice that this trophy wasn't going into my own office, for personal display. She wanted to share his accomplishment with the people of this state. I'd offered it to our regional office where the fish was actually caught, but they showed no interest. Really.
But in our office? Sure, they'd take it. And give it a good, public home.
So I lift the huge but light trophy off the wall, ever so careful of the fragile fins, and she helps me out the door and down the narrow steps. My plan for stashing it in the back seat of the extended cab is quickly abandoned.
It's too big.
Only option is to brace it down in the open bed of the truck. And then ferry it, oh so carefully, the few blocks to the community meeting room, where one of our crew will ferry it back to Regional Town.
Whenever their meeting got done.
It was almost two hours.
Time I spent standing there, in the parking lot, guarding the unprotected huge fish in the back of my truck.
Today was my first visit to the regional office since that day. On my list of things to do was to find out where they displayed his fish. Would it be visible to the public, or hidden away in a corner somewhere?
I needn't have worried.
It was above the office manager's desk.
First thing you see as you step in the front door and turn to the right.
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