Totally frustrated, Otto headed for the bottom.  His final plan was to use his weight.  He went to the bottom and laid like a sack of heavy potatoes.  He was worn out from 45 minutes of wilily tricks.  He was beat and he knew it.  It took forever to bring his dead weight up from the bottom 45 feet down in the icy mountain water.  When I got him to the surface it was Larry's job to get him in the net.  Since Otto was twice the size of the net opening this was another challenge.  Larry centered the net under the tired floating Otto and lifted it with one clean jerk.  Otto folded in half and went in.  We brought him

into the boat to remove the lure.  There was only one of the treble barbs hooked into the bone of his upper pallet.  When I removed it the barb was almost straight and ready to break or release.  Otto was too big for my fish bucket and too big and strong to let him lay on the boat floor.  Larry took out two stringers, one extra for insurance, and after running them through Otto's gills we threw him overboard with a cannonball size splash that sent water back into the boat.

The sky had gone from gray to black, the rain spatters had turned to large drops, and lightning & thunder cracked all around us.  It was close to 7 PM and we were a long ways from shore and safety.  We got to the lake store well after their posted closing time of 7 PM.  The door was locked and a worker was sweeping the floor.  I talked him into opening the door and when he heard my tale he rushed to get Mike and Bette Finger, the store's owners.  With Mike's help we determined that Otto was a 1999 state record before we took him out of the water.  The Finger's graciously stored Otto in their freezer overnight.  When Larry and I came in the next day there was Otto on display in the glass door freezer with a sign that read, "Monster Fish" and an arrow point

ing down to Otto.  And there was a line of wild-eyed young boys waiting to meet me and hear my tale firsthand. 

There was nothing in the store big enough to hold Otto for the trip to Arizona Game & Fish for certification for the record book.  The ice chests were too small and there wasn't even a box big enough.  Mike Finger used his ingenuity,  two boxes, and some old reliable duck tape to make one big box.  He then lined it with huge plastic garbage bags and we made an ice bed for Otto.  It took at least four big bags of ice to cover Otto.  Mike was ripping bags and pouring ice till I lost count.  I can't say how much I appreciate the Finger's opening the store after hours and helping me with Otto.  Mike wouldn't even let me pay for all the ice or the crude box he engineered.  The Finger's are truly gracious hosts.

Otto is a magnificent fish and put up a most respectable fight.  There's a lot of luck involved in hooking a "Big Otto", but it's all skill to get him into the boat.

Click on this link for more info on camping and fishing at Woods Canyon Lake

Please click on any of the thumbnail photos below to see an enlargement. 

Larry - Otto - Don.
On the store porch just after catching Otto.
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Some driftwood on the shore at sunset.
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Don and "Big Otto".
(Don has the hat on.)
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The deep end, where Otto was caught.
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"Big Otto's" tail.  26.5"
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Don - Otto - Larry.
In front of the lure wall.  Notice the smaller record fish on the wall above.
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"Big Otto"  75kb photo.

A well equipped fishing department.  Oh, they have groceries too.
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My boat was first on the lake in the early morning fog.
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The storm is coming. So is "Big Otto".  His lair is centered in this photo.
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The sun starts to rise through the fog.
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Some mid-afternoon clouds over the lake.

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The shoreline at sunset.
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Our campsite.  Just six feet from an 1800 foot shear cliff.
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The water is so smooth in the late afternoon that it creates a mirror.
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A stunning view to the south from our campsite.  3 miles from the lake.
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Shoreline rocks mirrored in the still water.
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Another breathtaking view looking past Four-Peaks towards Phoenix.
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