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Measuring around 18 miles long, New Hampshire has the smallest shoreline of all coastal states. But for about 400 years, it’s been enough to support small boat fishermen in the Seacoast region. They make their livings cruising New England’s waters for cod, lobster, shrimp and other stocks.For decades, the industry’s been challenged by declining populations of fish and shellfish, as well as changing federal regulations. As of 2010, New England fishermen are allowed to catch a set poundage of fish based on their take over a 10-year span. New Hampshire fishermen argue this change has made the cost of working outpace profits, forced many small boats out of business, and discouraged new people from entering the industry. No matter the cause, figures from the US Census Bureau clearly show an industry in decline. In Portsmouth, the Seacoast’s main city, the Census Bureau reports only 0.2 percent of residents work in the “Farming, fishing and forestry occupations” category. That’s compared to 0.6 percent in 2000. A number of New Hampshire fishermen, politicians, and historians believe that without change, the state’s small boat fishing industry is heading toward extinction.Summary provided by StateImpact NH

Tight Lines! Giant Lake Trout Sets New N.H. State Record

Courtesy of N.H. Fish and Game

Thomas Knight pulled up from the depths a lunker for the ages on Tuesday.

The Meredith resident caught a 37.65-pound lake trout in Big Diamond Pond in West Stewartstown. The fish, believed by fish biologists to be around 60 years old, broke the state record of 28 pounds, a mark that has stood since 1958.

“It was 15 minutes of chaos and fury,” Knight explained to NHPR when reached by phone. “What a fisherman wants.”

Twenty minutes after pulling on his lucky hat, Knight says the flag on his tip-up, a common ice fishing contraption, raised to attention. 

He ambled over from his seat atop a couple of milk crates crowned with a cushion to see what he had. After setting the hook, he slowly worked the monster in.

“The call you hope to get,” says Andy Schafermeyer with N.H. Fish and Game. “He and I met, and quickly inspected the fish and determined it stood a really good chance of breaking the record.”

Schafermeyer placed the fish on his certified scale, and watched it max out at 30 pounds.

“So I said Mr. Knight, I’ve got good news and bad news. You’ve got the state record, but I don’t know by how much.”

From there, the men and their giant, old fish drove over to a UPS distribution center, where Schafermeyer knew there would be larger scales. 

Employees gathered around to watch the official weigh in.

“It beat the record by so much that I was almost worried that something wasn’t right,” says Schafermeyer.

“He and I had just met the hour before but we high fived and hugged, it was pretty exciting.”

Lake trout are just some of New Hampshire’s longest lived fish. They are a slow growing fish, but unlike brook trout, they can obtain these massive sizes simply because of their lifespan.

"It was 15 minutes of chaos and fury. What a fisherman wants."

Turns out, giants like these—if you don’t release them—look better on the wall than on a dinner plate.

“Once a fish gets that old, it’s probably pretty gross,” says Schafermeyer. “In addition to accumulation of heavy metals, it’s pretty gross. I don’t think it would eat very well.”

Knight delivered the fish to a taxidermist today. He said it’s been a great couple of days. 

“Four years ago, I had one on, lost it. So, then you got a couple of years: nothing, nothing, nothing. So you just go back. You keep your attitude right. It’s so rewarding.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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