When Irene Boroo died four years ago, an item in her possession was a fish that had been stored in her basement for 25 years. But when it was time for the Boroo estate auction, the fish was nowhere to be found.
An ardent admirer of said fish, one Dennis Johnstone, owner of Dun Rovin Lodge in Hayward, Wis., had already snapped it up for $5,000 from Irene's grandchildren. Johnstone has called it "the buy of the century." Until the deal went down, Johnstone had so wanted the big fish for his lodge's lounge that he had called himself "future holder of the world-record muskie," and hung up a 63.5-pound muskellunge stuffed to look like a 71-pounder—or maybe a scaly sumo wrestler.
But, one sham was enough. So when Johnstone bought that mighty muskie from the Boroo estate and put out a road sign proclaiming that Dun Rovin was HOME OF THE WORLD RECORD MUSKY—70 POUNDS, 4 OUNCES, tongues started flapping: Was Johnstone cashing in on yet another hoax?
In the fall of 1987, after a nearly yearlong investigation of Johnstone's muskie, the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, situated in Hayward, decided yes...and no. The muskie displayed at Dun Rovin was the world-record fish, but not the official world-record fish. The gingerly judgment was handed down by Bob Kutz, founder of the Hall of Fame. No stranger to the promotional power of large muskies, Kutz is famous for the 4½ story-high, walk-through muskie he built on the Hall's lawn.
The tale of the Malo muskie began on a sultry summer night on the shores of Middle Eau Claire Lake in northern Wisconsin. The time was Saturday night and Sunday morning, June 5-6, 1954. It was an occasion marked by drinking, dancing, drinking, eating, drinking and, as Bob Malo, one of the partygoers at the Sportsman's Lodge that night, tells it, "a lot of fine people." Among them: Hank Boroo, the owner of Sportsman's Lodge; his wife, Hilda, the estimable chef at the Lodge; George Cruise, a Chicagoan who worked as a serviceman for Union Gas; and Bob and Sally Malo, a couple from Thunder Bay, Ontario.
It was two in the morning. Sally Malo had gone to bed. And Cruise was baiting her husband: "You shoulda been there today. You shoulda seen those walleyes and northerns. You always say you're going to go fishing. What do you say we two go fishing?"
Bob Malo swallowed Cruise's bait. He borrowed Boroo's Montague trolling rod and Shakespeare reel. He and Cruise were about to shove off when Hank Boroo stopped them. "If the pike are that big," he said, "then, by god, you two had better take my gun." And they did, says Malo, "just to lend some drama to the affair."
It was not until "around four," according to Malo, that "we went out in a pretty saucy condition." First Cruise trolled, then Malo took the rod. "I figure we must have been horsing around out there for a half hour," says Malo. "All I know is, we were running into some weeds, when suddenly the weight was there on my line. I was thinking pike, northern pike. And then again, I thought it could be one of those big turtles."
Turtles, indeed. What was hauling on Malo's bait was 70 pounds of unsated muskellunge, which had just supped on one of those fine northern pikes Cruise had talked about, and then gulped down the nine-inch sucker hooked to Malo's line for dessert.
"We knew we had something big," says Malo, "and we kept working it closer and closer toward the beach. When we reached shallow water, I got out and trapped the muskie between my knees and the boat. George said, 'I'm going to shoot.' " Cruise shot, missed, shot again and nailed the big fish in the head. "I was hollering, 'Enough! Enough!' " says Malo, "what with everything all slippery."