Like every fisherman, Jim Anthony loves to talk about his greatest catch. His was in 1962. It was a Blue Pike, and he kept it in his freezer for 37 years, CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports.
Anthony remembers the days when Lake Erie was filled with Blue Pike. He was part of the huge commercial fishing industry on the lake in the '40s and '50s. By the 60's the Blue Pike had all but died out. Jim Anthony knew in 1962 this might be the last Blue Pike ever reeled in. "So I thought, I better do something with this fish," Anthony said. "I didn't know what to do really. I'll be honest with ya."
While he tried to get someone interested in his fish, he kept it next to the soups and sauce in his home. "I had no idea I was gonna keep this fish for 37 years. Neither did my wife Mary Lynn. You know what I mean?" Anthony said.
I'm sure there were a few times during the years when I wanted to throw the fish away," Mary Lynn said.
"I called her honey, you know, that way I wouldn't get in trouble. So I'd say, lookit, honey, we're gonna keep that fish," he said.
Jim won over his wife and got used to the fish in the freezer until he heard about Carol Stepien, a fish scientist who specializes in DNA. "Well, I kind of use techniques like they would have used for the O.J. Simpson trial, but I use them for fish" Stepien said.
Stepien thinks DNA can tell scientists what happened to all the Blue Pike and how they became extinct. She'd been looking for one for years. When Jim Anthony heard that, he gave her the fish he had kept all those years. "I was really happy because frozen DNA is great DNA," Stepien said.
It turns out Jim Anthony's fish was in such good shape despite its 37 years in his freezer that scientists are able to use it to study what effect pollution and over fishing may have had on the environment of Lake Erie.
"In the end my fish made its ultimate goal," Anthony said.
When the Blue Pike disappeared Jim Anthony quit commercial fishing and became a barber. But his heart is still out on Lake Erie, and in his mind he still sees boats heavy with the fish he loved. "It was part of my life and how many people can say that in their lifetime they've seen something disappear before their eyes. And I think we should learn from that," Anthony said.
Most fishermen brag about the one that got away. Jim Anthony will always remember the one that stuck around.
©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved
Copyright 1999 CBS. All rights reserved.