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Angler didn’t realize how ‘massive’ record-breaking fish was — until it fought back

A Maryland angler’s decision to duke it out with his resistant catch proved worthwhile when he broke a state record, wildlife officials said.

Jean-Philippe Lartigue set the Maryland state record for rainbow trout on Feb. 10 after pulling up his “massive” catch at Antietam Creek in Devil’s Backbone County Park, according to a Feb. 13 Maryland Department of Natural Resources news release. The fish “shatters” the previous record set more than 35 years ago, officials said.

His rainbow trout weighed 17.44 pounds — more than three pounds over the state record set in 1987 by Dave Schroyer, according to the department. The record-breaking trout was 32 inches long, officials said.

The Bethesda resident is an “avid angler,” learning to fish for trout via the European technique of using natural bait on a rod from his father, according to officials.

Originally from Morocco, Lartigue worked as a fisheries biologist in Africa until he retired and moved to Maryland, the department said.

While out on the creek, Lartigue opted for a 12-foot rod and a worm bait to hook any potential trout, according to the department.

Then, he hooked the huge rainbow trout, not fully aware he would be in for a “very long” fight, he said.

“I knew the fish was a very large trout, but I did not see how big it was at the beginning of the fight,” Lartigue said in the release.

The trout raced to the other side of the creek twice as Lartigue kept trying to reel in his catch, he told officials. He had to balance trying to pull in a fish that was “hard to move” with avoiding bridge abutments so the line wouldn’t get cut, he said.

The tussle between Lartigue and the fish lasted about 30 minutes, he told officials. Once he tired out the trout, he grabbed at its jaw because he didn’t have a big enough net to scoop it.

He cut his finger while seizing the struggling trout, but he managed to yank it out of the water and onto the rock bank, according to officials.

Lartigue took his catch to be weighed on a certified scale at Ernst’s Country Market in Clear Spring, and the species was confirmed by the department’s freshwater fisheries and hatcheries director, John Mullican.

“We are extremely impressed by the weight of the fish, which bests the old record by over 3 pounds, a record that many of us in the department thought would never be broken,” fisheries outreach coordinator Erik Zlokovitz said in the release.

Devil’s Backbone County Park is about 75 miles northwest of Baltimore.

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