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The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame took it upon itself to become the "official" keeper of world records for freshwater fish in 1970, and when Johnstone took possession of the Malo muskie and hung out his bold road sign in 1986, the matter of the record was opened anew. At the outset of the Hall of Fame's investigation, the Malo Muskie's weight was docked four ounces, because, according to Is This the World Record Muskellunge?, Flaim's scale wasn't accurate to the quarter pound, only to the half pound. And, for a while, it looked as though the now 70-pound Malo muskie would fare better than its former 70-pound, 4-ounce incarnation because investigator Ramsell recommended that the Malo muskie be recognized, at 70 pounds even, as the official world record.
Then two things happened. First, Kutz decided to survey muskie clubs, sportswriters and people in the fishing industry to see what their opinion was on the controversial fish. Overwhelmingly, the respondents voted not to accept the Malo muskie as a record. Second, during the Hall of Fame's investigation a member of its Board of Governors asked, How do you put a 55-inch fish on a scale without it flopping down? The surmise: You put a board on the scale for the fish to rest on.
There were only four persons who could say whether or not that was actually how the Malo muskie was weighed at Storey Taxidermy: Malo, Boroo, Cruise and Flaim. Cruise was unreachable during the Hall of Fame investigation. Boroo was dead. That left Malo, who was throwing up during part of the weighing, and Flaim, the taxidermist, now retired.
What does Malo remember? "All I can say is, What board? The fish was 32 inches around, so I don't think it would have bent that much. I don't recall a board. I was not much of a healthy person after the party. I was suffering. I was violently ill."
What does the taxidermist say? "I don't remember putting the board on. But we must have put a board underneath, because a fish that big drapes. Its head and tail would have hit the table unless it was raised." But if there were a board, Flaim says, he would certainly have "dialed the scale back to zero."
If a scale is re-zeroed with a board on it, argues Ramsell, "the board becomes part of the scale." The board becomes an insignificant detail.
Not insignificant enough for Kutz. In the November-December 1987 edition of The Splash Pulse, the Hall of Fame's official publication, Kutz announced that the probability of a board on the scale was "the factor that weighed most heavily in the Hall's decision to not recognize the Malo 70-pound musky [sic] as a new official world record."
But the Hall of Fame offered a consolation prize of sorts: It would recognize Malo's fish as the unofficial world-record muskie. What does that mean? Kutz says it means that the fish really did weigh 70 pounds, but not on a "certified" scale. Ramsell says, "This is called doublespeak. It satisfies those who think it should be a record without annoying those who don't. It's called being political."
Malo seems resigned, and a bit bewildered, at the judgment. The Hall of Fame not only denied his fish an official world-record status, but it whittled four ounces off the muskie in the process. "If this were official, I would say, O.K., it's only 70 pounds," reasons Malo. "But if this is unofficial, I say, 'Why not 70 pounds, 4 ounces?'
"I asked Mr. Kutz, 'Now that you have said it is a 70-pound fish, am I going to get anything, in an unofficial way?' Kutz said, 'We'll give you something.'"