Joe Egan was fishing in 3-foot waves off a Chicago breakwall Saturday, catching some decent smallmouth, when he caught the fish.
Here's more and a photo (thanks to Ed Bohn) that gives a better sense of its size.
``I thought I had the record,'' Egan said.
Here's the tale of the catch and release of the Oak Lawn man's 22-inch smallmouth, which came up 2 ounces short of the Illinois record.
They were fun fishing after launching out of 95th. They had caught about four smallmouth before the big one hit a Fat Free Shad about 10 a.m.
``As soon as we had this one, we got the hell off the water,'' Egan said.
And they drove to Henry's , where an audience of customers in the shop watched breathlessly as Tom Palmisano weighed it on the certified scale. It settled at just over 6-5.
And Egan said, ``We fished our asses off. I can't believe this. I am so mad it was not 2 ounces more. God it was close.''
Oh, it was.
Mark Samp caught the Illinois record smallmouth (6-7) from a Fulton County strip pit on March 26, 1985.
I predicted the record would fall this year from a fish caught on Lake Michigan. Still think it will happen.
Egan wanted the fish released. So it spent the night (I saw it late Saturday and snapped this quick photo) getting acclimated to the same water temperatures as Lake Michigan in a tank at Henry's.
Then it was released on Sunday at a super secret location with no photos of the release spot.
Cloak and dagger, baby.
When Bohn sent the photos today, he sent along a note. Bohn has been chasing the Illinois record for years on Lake Michigan.
``Joe Egan came by today so I could upload his piture of his 6.5 smallmouth from Southern Lake Michigan. Fish hit a crank bait.... Go Figure????? I was call Friday to go with him, but I turned him down because I was out on Thursday and the bite was way to slow..... Go Figure. Water temp in the mid forty's and these guys are throwing cranks????? Go Figure... What do I know????? I was sweating when I heard. had to call Henry's when I found out. What a relief... I told Joe I was glade he just missed it.... Go Figure.''