OTTAWA — As far as fish stories go, this one is a true-to-life whopper.
It involves 11-year-old Logan Schnipke, of Ottawa, who waded into Lake Erie and caught a 48.5-inch, 24-pound muskellunge with his bare hands. The June 29 adventure has been the talk of Wild Wings Marina all week, and no doubt will be the talk of the Schnipke and Brinkman families for many years.
Logan was with his family that Saturday afternoon attending the wedding reception of Carol and Ted Rosengarten.
“I was getting pretty bored, just sitting around listening to the adults talk,” he said.
So Logan did what any normal 11-year-old would do in such a setting — he pestered his parents about crossing the street and taking a walk along the shoreline. Mike and Shaunda Schnipke decided they would join their son, as did his uncle Dave Schnipke.
A few minutes went by before Shaunda Schnipke noticed something splashing around in the water, just a few feet off shore.
“I thought it might be a person, but when we walked toward it we saw it was a fish. Logan wanted to wade out and see if he could catch it and I told him to go ahead,” She said.
As Logan approached the fish, it began to swim out farther into the lake.
“I grabbed it twice by the tale, but it slipped away,” Logan said. “All of a sudden I was in chest-deep water so I lunged at the fish, wrapped my arms around its middle, and started dragging it to shore,” Logan said.
That’s when Shaunda Schnipke started having second thoughts.
“I knew it was big fish, but I didn’t know it was that big. I yelled for him to let it go, but there was no way Logan was going to loosen his grip,” she said. “I about fainted when I saw how big and sharp the fish’s teeth were.”
Logan wrestled the muskie to shore before collapsing on the beach. By that time, many guests from the wedding party, as well as the bride and groom, had rushed over to check out the action.
Employees at the Wild Wings Marina, near the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant, were shocked when women in dresses and men wearing good clothes showed up with a shirtless boy saying he wanted his fish weighed and measured. When they heard how Logan caught the muskie, they thought they had just been introduced to the next Tarzan.
“I’ve been in the marina business for 37 years and have seen many things, but this … this is just unheard of,” said Jeff Shatto, of Wild Wings. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
Added Scott Hill, of the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, “now I can honestly say I’ve heard of everything.”
Hill said the muskie likely was between 10- to 14-years-old and definitely was a female (males don’t get that big). He believes the muskie was either dying from old age or some type of disease, thus its lethargic condition.
“When a fish is splashing around in shallow water as was being described in this instance, it’s usually a sign it is under some kind of stress,” Hill said. “The young man’s lucky it wasn’t a healthier fish or he might be minus a few fingers today.”
Muskellunge are the largest members of the pike family and typically grow to be 28 to 48 inches long and weigh 5 to 36 pounds. The state record is 55.13 pounds, 50.25-inches long, caught in 1972 by Joe D. Lykins at Piedmont Lake in eastern Ohio. Muskies are present in many lakes in Ohio as well as the Ohio River. In the Lima region, neither Indian Lake nor Grand Lake have muskies, according to the ODNR. The closest spots to Lima where muskellunge have been caught are both in the Maumee River: Independence Dam near Defiance and Hosey Dam in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The Schnipkes weren’t sure what they’re going to do with the big fish.
“Right now it’s in my freezer and I’d like to get it out of there,” Shaunda Schnipke said.
They’re looking at getting it mounted, but at around $800, that may be too costly.
“I think it would look neat hanging above my bed,” said Logan.
He told his grandfather, Tony Brinkman, that this was the biggest thing that’s ever happened to him, even bigger than the time he met NASCAR driver Tony Stewart at Eldora Motor Speedway.
The only person not overly impressed with his fish is Logan’s 6-year-old sister, Alaina.
She took one look at it and told her mother, “I never want to swim in that lake again.”