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Around 5:30 they beached their boat and rousted the other guests at Sportsman's Lodge out of their cabins. When Hank Boroo saw the fish, he began calling everyone he knew. Among those summoned to the lodge that morning was Kutz, then a public relations man for the local resort association. While others were patting each other on the back, Kutz leaned over the lunker and noted that "the fish's gills were still pulsating. The fish was still fresh."
While Malo was figuring how to get away from all the celebrating and back to Canada in time for work on Monday, he also agreed to give the fish to Boroo, accepting in return free American Plan lodging at Sportsman's Lodge for the rest of his life. He was going to pay $300 to get it mounted properly at the Storey Taxidermy Company in Duluth, Minn. Then people would walk into the Sportsman's Lodge and exclaim, Wow! This is where you can catch a world-record muskie.
When Malo, Cruise and Boroo reached Storey Taxidermy, plopped the muskie on taxidermist George Flaim's counter and told him to weigh and stuff the fish, they had already committed their first gaffe. "I told them the fish should have been properly weighed on an authorized scale," Flaim says. "But they just said 'mount it.' " Since they didn't care, Flaim didn't insist. He laid the muskie down on his bathroom scale, and he, Cruise, Boroo and Malo all watched as the needle fluttered three quarters of the way past 69, toward 70. The fish weighed 69 pounds, 12 ounces, according to Flaim's scale.
That put the Malo muskie just over the world record at the time: Louis Spray's 69-pound, 11-ounce fish, caught in 1949. But not until Boroo, Cruise and Malo got back to the lodge and looked at a record book did they realize that. They just thought they had a damn big muskie. By then, Flaim had slit the world-record belly, emptied it of eight and a quarter pounds of spawn and three pounds of chewed-up pike and taken the meat off the fish. Whoops.
Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, suspicions about the muskie were growing. As soon as Malo returned to the Sportsman's Lodge, a doubter stepped forward, sniffed the inside of his car and said, "Boy, you sure got that fishy smell out of this car pretty fast." And Malo replied, "We didn't take the muskie to Duluth in this car, we used Hank Boroo's." The man retorted: "No, I mean the smell from bringing the fish down from Canada."
Larry Ramsell, who headed up the investigation of the Malo muskie for the Hall of Fame, writes in his booklet entitled Is This the World Record Muskellunge? that he was struck by "an 'undertones—no, make that several 'undertones,'—of negativity, surrounding the Malo muskie." Ramsell listed the questions, with the results of his research:
•Was the Malo muskie a real muskie or a "tiger muskie," a hybrid between a muskie and a northern pike? (Definitely a purebred muskie.)
•How did Malo, who was not a muskie fisherman, happen to catch a muskie in Middle Eau Claire Lake, which is not a known muskie lake? (He knew how to fish, and there were muskies in that lake.)
•How could a muskie that short—52 inches, with a girth of 32 inches—weigh so much? (It had just eaten.)
•Well then, shouldn't the stomach contents be subtracted from the weight? (No, stomach content counts.)