ELKHART — Chad McDonald has been aware of the “Beast” for several years.
He’s seen the husky muskie lurking near the surface of the Elkhart River and can identify it easily — not only by its outstanding girth — but also by a scar on the top of its head.
And McDonald had come close to reeling in the fish several times when the two came across each other at McDonald’s favorite fishing spot near Waterfall Drive and South Elkhart Avenue in downtown Elkhart.
That was the case until Wednesday when the 31-year-old plumber hooked the muskie at about 5:30 p.m.
He said he didn’t realize exactly what he had snagged until the fish came up to the surface.
“I started freaking out like a little girl,” McDonald said with a laugh.
“This is gonna be a lifetime memory for me. I’ve been fighting for this fish for three or four years now and I finally got him,” he said.
It didn’t turn out to be a huge battle, either. He reeled it in after about five minutes.
McDonald speculated the fish had already grown tired from swimming in the fast currents of the slightly elevated river.
He said he caught the muskie with a 30-pound spiderwire and a seven-foot rod.
McDonald, who lives in Bristol, said he grew up fishing on the river.
He said he was thrilled to have caught a fish he and others have seen for years.
“My dad seen me hook into him before. I didn’t have a real big pole then. I was using a medium ultra-light with a 10-pound test and he just run me out (of string),” he said.
He said he had heard the Indiana Department of Natural Resources had caught the fish a year or so ago and that it weighed 46 pounds at the time. He thinks it was close to 50 pounds.
Another fisherman took a photo of McDonald with the fish, which remained calm while outside of the water. After holding it up for the photo, he said he believed it was a little more than 4 feet long.
McDonald said he had no plans of taking it home.
“He’s such a big fish and he’s been there for a long time. There was no point in keeping him,” he said. “All I wanted was the picture.”
McDonald quickly released the fish, but was worried when he saw it initially floating upside down.
“I thought he was going to die so I walked down the river with him and then I slowly seen him go under and swim away,” McDonald said. “I was happy about that.”