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1971: The Year of the Giant Steelhead

Walk into a party full of half-buzzed steelheaders engaged in loud, laughing conversation and say “30-pound steelhead” and watch the room fall into quiet listen. I’ll  bet you could hear a mouse peeing on a cotton ball. What if that discussion included a state record being broken five times in one winter season? Suddenly no one is looking at their phones. Well, just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale from the best of times for steelhead fishing in Washington State. It was the winter steelhead season of 1971; five kaiju steelhead were landed over 30 pounds that broke the state record on a seemingly weekly pace.

Yes, there have been more than a few of the 30-pound variety landed and pictured up since, but keep in mind this was wayyyy before social media; there was like newspapers, STS magazine and word of mouth, and that’s it. Remarkable for its time.

To the question, “what is the most bad-ass picture of a steel-head you’ve ever seen?” I have an answer. Easy. On New Years Day, 1971, Mr. Albert English of Mount Vernon landed a 30-pound, two-ounce fresh-from-the-tides fish from the lower Skagit River. Forty-pound test and a plunked pink-pearl #4 Spin-n-Glo did the job. I’ve seen the picture of him holding that perfect chrome giant for years now, it gets my vote. And trust me, I’ve been more than fortunate to see some unworldly large steelhead, but Mr. English’s fish is the winner. This fish also threw the first pitch to start this All-Star game of my record/no, my record/no, MY record this winter fifty years ago.

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