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Jackpot! or Not, It’s Still a Great Fishing Story

June 13, 2018
By Larry Claypool - OVO Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Of course James Beres has a 'fish story' to tell about his record-breaking lake trout monster he caught on December 1, 2017. It's a good story too.

Beres has probably told his story a hundred times since last December, but I got to hear the story first hand during the recent Outdoor Writers of Ohio conference in Cambridge, OH.

For the record Beres, age 47, of Lorain, OH, set the Ohio state record for lake trout with a 26.63-lb fish. It also measured 38 inches long and had a girth of 25.5 inches. The fish was caught five miles north of Lorain's Beaver Park Marina. Beres was using a custom made JT Custom Crank Bait, trolling (with 20-lb test braided line) from his 23-foot Tidewater boat. He was fishing with his brother, Mike Beres.

Article Photos

James Beres holds his Ohio state record lake trout before being honored at the Outdoor Writers of Ohio annual conference in May in Cambridge, OH. Shown with Beres are his sons, Gavin (left) and Braedyn. The trout weighed in at 26.63-lb, was 38 inches long and had a girth of 25.5 inches. Photo by Larry Claypool

The previous lake trout record was owned by Tom Harbison with a 20.40-lb fish. It measured 34 inches. Ohio fishing records are based on weight only, but the length and girth are usually noted.

Ohio's state record fish are certified by the Outdoor Writers of Ohio State Record Fish Committee, with assistance from fisheries biologists with the Ohio DNR, Division of Wildlife. With Beres' fish, Matt Faust of the DNR's Sandusky Fish Research Station confirmed the identification of the catch as a lake trout.

As new Ohio state fish records are broken the fisherman are recognized each spring during the Outdoor Writers of Ohio conference. Beres was on hand to accept the award, along with his wife, Nikki, and their sons Gavin and Braedyn. Beres also brought the taxidermied fish to display during the banquet.

Fact Box

"We have two nets, and I told my brother, 'we need the bigger net, we're going to need the bigger net'," said James Beres.

Beres' story starts with acknowledgement that he wasn't targeting lake trout at the time. He was trying to land a BIG walleye. Beres, and his brother, were frantically attempting to catch a huge Lake Erie walleye in the waining days of the annual Walleye Fall Brawl tournament, hosted by Erie Outfitters of Sheffield Lake, OH. Note: the top prize in this contest is worth $80,000 in prizes and pays cash for several other places.

"It was the last week of the largest fish contest," Beres told the crowd of outdoor writers, editors and photographers. "My brother Mike, we call him Bubba, and I had worked hard to catch a big fish. It was coming down to the end. The contest ended on December 3. I figured we needed, at least, a 15-pounder," said Beres.

"I meant to get up at 11 (p.m.), but didn't get out until two or three (a.m.). I met my brother at the dock in Lorain. We get out there (five miles from shore) and we always call which side of the boat we'll fish. We use planer boards, so I said, 'my side, my fish'. So I get this really big fish on my side, and I can tell it's a really big fish. We have two nets, and I told my brother, 'we need the bigger net, we're going to need the bigger net'," said Beres.

"I get the fish close and I see this huge silver back! And I'm thinking, 'there's $80,000'. We get the fish in the boat. The line is all tangled. We thought that it was a walleye," added Beres. "So we take it in (back to the marina, to get it weighed). They say, 'it's not a walleye, it's a lake trout'. It weighed 28 pounds, but it wasn't a walleye, so we headed back out."

Beres said the trout laid in his boat for a while as they re-set their lines in search of a big walleye. "We started thinking about how big the trout was and wondered what the state record lake trout would be. We looked (online), and talking (texting) with friends on shore. We decided to come back in," said Beres.

From there the brothers had to track down the rules and regulations for getting a potential state record fish certified by weight. The search was then on to find certified scales. "It was nearly morning now, and we're trying to find a place with certified scales. I ended up in line at a local meat counter," said Beres.

By the time the Beres brothers managed to get a certified weight for their catch, it notched the scales at 26.63-lbs, a little under the original 28 pounds.

So, Beres had his new state record fish, but failed to 'win big' in the walleye tournament. He recalled back and forth phone calls and text messages he'd had that night with his wife, about hitting the $80,000 jackpot, and then coming up empty with a lake trout.

"I didn't win the money, but I did get a $1,000 taxidermy bill, and a story," added Beres.

The crowd cheered. And Beres walked away with an awards plaque from OWO Record Fish Committee member Fred Snyder.

Note: Information about the Walleye Fall Brawl can be found online at: or Registration is $30, $32 for online registration. The grand prize this year is: Warrior V21-21 DC powered by an Evinrude 300HP G2, sitting atop a custom EZ Loader trailer.



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