The Tyee Club is celebrating its biggest catch in three decades.
And it was caught by a club past-president.
Avid fisherman Mike Gage, who served as president of the Tyee Club for 13 years from 1980-’93, reeled in a 61.5 pound chinook salmon just after 8 p.m. Sunday in the famed Tyee Pool.
The timing couldn’t have been better. The catch comes almost exactly 30 years after the Tyee Club last recorded a fish weighing more than 60 pounds.
The accomplishment, which will go down in the history books, was made even sweeter for Gage because it was a family affair.
“Our son (Richard Gage) was rowing me,” Gage said Monday morning at the Tyee Club. “We’d been rowing for about a half an hour. There was a real heavy strike and a 40-minute battle – and then we headed back to the clubhouse.”
After the battle on the water, the salmon swam straight into the net.
“It was a nice, steady fight,” Gage said. “It was a well-behaved fish, it took nice runs and tired himself out.”
Richard, whose older brother Roger Gage rowed an angler to a 50 pound Tyee 34 years ago when he was just 16-years-old, guessed his dad’s prized catch had to be more than 50 pounds.
Gage himself said he guessed the salmon to be in the mid-to-high 50 pound range, and was pleasantly surprised to discover upon weigh-in that his fish was 61.5 pounds.
“We had to dig a hole in the gravel because his tail was on the scale but his head was on the ground and it was absorbing five pounds of weight,” Gage said.
The chinook is the biggest registered fish Gage has ever caught – his largest had been a 51-pounder in 1975 – and the first he’s registered with the Tyee Club in seven years.
Mayor Walter Jakeway recognized Gage’s achievement on behalf of the city, “A huge congratulations to Mike Gage for catching a 61.5 pound registered Tyee Sunday evening.”
In recognition of the catch Gage will receive a diamond pin – awarded to those lucky enough to make a catch over 60 pounds.
Gage’s chinook is the eighth of the season (July-September) for the Tyee Club. At this time last year, only one had been reeled in.
“They’re bigger and fatter this year,” Gage said. “This year the fish are predominantly tyee. It looks like it’s starting out to be a good season.”
Gage, whose five sons are all members of the Tyee Club, joined the club in 1975.
He currently serves as chair of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation and has served as chair of the Campbell River Gravel Committee which works to construct spawning channels and gravel pads in the Campbell River. Gage also raised $285,000 for a $1.8 million purchase of Baikie Island with the Nature Conservatory of Canada.
The Tyee Club, which is headquartered at the Tyee Spit, was founded in 1924. The club exists to help foster public interest in the conservation of chinook salmon, to provide a facility to enhance the survival rate for juvenile chinooks reared in the Campbell River watershed and released into Discovery Passage, as well as to encourage the craft of fishing and to maintain accurate records of fish taken under club rules.
The last chinook over 60 pounds to be registered at the Tyee Club was on Aug. 13, 1983.
The 62-pound beast was caught by Tammy McConkey and took the trophy for biggest salmon of the season.
She was rowed to her catch by Ken Enns, who now owns the River Sportsman.
The fish was also officially weighed in for the 1983 Daiwa World Salmon Fishing Championship. She won that title too plus a trip for two to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii.