Pals team up to double-hook, land 20-pound lake trout

Fish stories come and go. The one that got away. The one that didn’t. Huge fish. Tiny fish. Things you thought were fish, but turned out to be boots, or rocks, or logs.

Add to those this doozy: Two men. One fish (hooked twice). And plenty of on-ice lobbying before one allowed the other to haul in the fish of a lifetime.

We’ll let Tom Cole of Bangor take over his tale from here.

Herb Melanson of Orono (left) and Tom Cole of Bangor show off the 20.5-pound, 39.5-inch lake trout that the pair teamed up to catch on Cold Stream Pond in Enfield recently. (Photo courtesy of Tom Cole).

“I just wanted to share a fishing story from this past weekend up to Cold Stream [Pond] in Enfield,” Cole wrote in an email. “Me and my buddy Herb Melanson [of Orono] were fishing out of his camp and around 2 p.m. Herb’s togue trap flag went up.”

Cole and Melanson were living by the tried-and-true “big bait, big fish” rule, and instantly suspected that a hefty lake trout was on the other end of the line.

“We knew that whatever set the trap had to be good-sized because of the size of the suckers we were using [for bait],” Cole wrote. “So Herb took off to tend the trap and my daughter Brooke and I jumped on the four-wheeler to see what he had.”

The Coles didn’t get very far before their day got a lot more interesting.

“On the way out Herb spotted my trap flag go up and waved me on,” Cole said.

At that point, each began battling fish they independently determined were whoppers.

Make that one whopper.

“After a few minutes of playing each of our fish, Herb yelled out to stop pulling,” Cole said. “He had figured out that the fish each of us was playing was one and the same.”

Then the negotiations began.

“Being a good friend, Herb yelled out, ‘Cut your line, Tom, and I’ll pull it in,'” Cole wrote.

Cole’s response: “Yeah, that was not going to happen,” he wrote.

At a stalemate, the pals didn’t know exactly what to do.

“After a few minutes of choice words to each other it took a total stranger passing by to offer up a coin toss to make it right,” Cole wrote. “Yes, I won the toss, so Herb cut his line and a short time later, with one wet arm, I hauled out [the fish].”

The togue measured 39.5 inches long, weighed 20.5 pounds, and was 20.5 inches around.

And though some might say that since Melanson’s bait had been taken first, he should have had first dibs on the togue, Cole said that if he hadn’t won the toss, the duo might never have landed the fish.

“Talk about fate,” he wrote. “Herb’s hook was out of the togue’s mouth [when I pulled it through the hole] and my hook was just barely in the lip. Had I lost the coin toss we may have just lost another fish without knowing [how big it actually was].”

Two men, two baits, one fish, and a whopper of a tale.

But as it turns out, this isn’t the first great story generated by Cole and Melanson.

Back in 2010, I met the duo when they were sitting in the audience at the annual moose permit lottery, which was held at L.L. Bean that year.

Herb Melanson (left) of Orono and Tom Cole of Bangor pose with the two bull moose they shot during the first week of moose season in 2010. The longtime hunting buddies were sub-permittees on each others’ hunts and both ended up filling their tags late in the week. Melanson’s moose weighed 900 pounds and had a 53-inch antler spread while Cole tagged a 740-pounder with a 45 1/2-inch spread. Photo courtesy of Herb Melanson)

Over the course of five minutes, Cole and Melanson listened as their names were drawn for the coveted permits. Making the situation more special: Each was listed as the other’s second shooter, both permits were for the same Wildlife Management District, during the same one-week session, and Cole happened to have a camp in that zone.

Melanson ended up bagging a 900-pound bull moose with a 53-inch antler spread on Friday, the second-to-last day of his season. To that point, Cole had not yet tagged out.

“My hunt on Friday was great, but Tom’s hunt was the icing on the cake,” Melanson said via email at the time. “On Saturday, I had to get my moose tagged and in the cooler, so I returned to Tom’s camp around noon. Tom had been out that morning with no luck.”

When they found another hunter had already moved in on a spot they had hoped to target that afternoon, Melanson said he convinced Cole to try to call in a moose rather than do what he planned: Ride the roads.

With just minutes left in the season, Cole succeeded, calling in a bull moose that weighed 740 pounds and boasted antlers with a 45 1/2-inch spread.

Cole’s reaction at the time, according to Melanson: “You can’t rush these things. It was all part of my master plan.”

I suspect Cole had similar words to share when he and his buddy had their togue safely on the ice.

And quite a master plan it was.


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.