SANDUSKY — It was shortly after midnight, in the earliest moments of June 9, as Brent McGlone’s boat glided across the shallow waters of the expansive arm of Lake Erie that separates the city from the Marblehead peninsula. The fish moving about below had no inkling just who was standing on the diamond plate deck of that craft.
McGlone is a bowfisherman who holds the state record with a sucker he shot on the Maumee River, near Weir Rapids, in 2007. It’s the second time he’s held the record, so clearly his arrows track straight and he knows where to find big fish.
But on this night, McGlone’s friend Patrick Johnson would be the one who had a gargantuan scaly hunk of history in his sights.
The pair were targeting big fish, and in the early summer darkness, this rich estuary called Sandusky Bay was full of them. They had shot a 37-pound common carp earlier that night, and a 46-pound grass carp just 10 minutes before Johnson had a huge common carp appear on his side of the boat.
“We were hoping to shoot something special,” said Johnson, who works for the city of Toledo’s water department. “And it was one of those nights when everything seemed to be clicking.”
As the duo plied the bay, they were acutely aware that Ohio’s record common carp taken by bowfishing had come from those same waters in 2008, a 47.65 pounder shot by Rich Cady.
“For five years we’d talked about that record, and how if we were able to break it, then it probably wouldn’t be by much,” Johnson said. “It just didn’t seem like there was much room left above that weight.”
Johnson and McGlone had passed up a number of large fish earlier that night, as the lengthy bank of 50-watt LED lights on the boat illuminated the cast of creatures in the waters around them. Then, in just 4 feet of water, a monster-class outline appeared in front of Johnson, who only had time to partially pull back on his bow before sticking an arrow in the fish. As it raced toward the shallows, McGlone maneuvered the boat in pursuit.
“I didn’t even see the fish when he spun around and shot it,” McGlone said. “But once we got it up beside the boat and I grabbed it, I’m thinking wow, this just might be a record here.”
McGlone does not dispense the superlatives recklessly. He bow fishes religiously and spends many of his weekends on the bay.
Once in the boat, the fish was placed on a digital scale and tripped it at 53-plus pounds. It measured 45 inches long, with a girth of 32¼ inches.
“When we saw those numbers, we just sat there for a minute and stared at each other,” Johnson said. “Laying there in the boat, my fish was longer than Brent’s bow. Even though we were out there to shoot big fish, this one just kind of stopped us in our tracks.”
The shock-and-awe moment came as they realized Johnson hadn’t beaten the state record — he’d destroyed it — bettering the mark by roughly six pounds.
“I’m sitting there totally amazed, because as a kid I had studied those state records and I remember thinking they were not achievable,” the 37-year-old Johnson said.
McGlone was well-schooled in the routine required to get a potential record verified, so the pair set out to find a scale capable of handling a fish of that size, and one that carried a current certification seal.
Most places with a commercial scale would be closed, but none were open until later that morning, when the fishing friends took the colossal carp to a fish cleaning business in nearby Port Clinton. The carp weighed in at 53.6 pounds, but the scale did not have a valid seal, so its measure would not be acceptable.
The search started anew, and some 20 or 30 phone calls later, a certified scale large enough to handle the behemoth was located at the FedEx office on West Bancroft Street. With McGlone shooting video and making certain every detail was addressed properly, the big carp went 53.65 pounds on the FedEx scale, despite some 16 or 17 hours passing since the fish was pulled from the water.
“We hadn’t slept, and you worry because you know the whole time that fish is losing weight,” Johnson said. “But we just wanted to make sure everything was covered. You don’t want a record fish thrown out due to a technicality.”
Once the weight was certified, the photographic evidence was in hand and the witness signatures on the official forms, and a biologist verified the species, the data on the Johnson fish was sent off to the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, the organization that maintains the records and has to approve all submissions.
About a week or so later, while Johnson was fishing in Florida, he got a call that his fish was now, officially, the Ohio state record for common carp. Johnson’s fish is bigger than the state’s hook-and-line record carp, a 50-pounder, and of the five records in the bowfishing division, the Toledo duo holds two of them.
“I’ve shot a lot of big fish, and taken some pretty nice deer with the bow, but this is certainly the highlight for me as far as the outdoors,” Johnson said.
He has put his trophy in the very skilled hands of Mark Lodzinski at Artistic Touch Taxidermy in Oregon, and is eagerly awaiting the finished trophy.
“And if somebody breaks the record, and it’s legit, I’ll tip my cap to them,” Johnson said.
“If someone does that, I just hope it’s Brent. I’m happy that I got the record, but also a little sad, because I know how much time Brent puts in bowfishing that water. The stars were lined up and I happened to be the one who shot it, but that fish and that record are as much Brent’s as they are mine.”
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.