The 64-year reign of one of Minnesota’s most legendary fishing records appears to have come to an end on a cold night this week.
Nolan Sprengeler of Plymouth landed on Mill Lax Lake at 55 pounds 14.8 ounces on Monday and was weighed on a certified scale at a UPS store, ending an evening of drama after years of chasing leading to a few minutes of draw. -pulling chaos. There was actually more drama after the beast landed, but we’ll come back to that later.
The official state record for the heaviest musk – a 54-pound fish caught from Lake Winnibigoshish – has been held since 1957.
Although it is unlikely that any formal decision will be made before next week, interviews with several officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources show that all documents are witnesses, notarized signatures, weighing on certified scales and official identification of the species. (Esox masquinongy) – everything seems to be in order.
According to Sprengeler’s report and the official record-fishing statement he filed with DNR the next morning, here are the details:
Location: According to Sprengler, “rock reefs” are – and you can bet those on board will carry any details to their graves.
Bait: “Casting large plastics”. (Again, don’t ask for more.)
Weight: 55 lbs, 14.8 oz
Length: 57.75 inches
Girth: 29 inch
Command: Sprengler, along with netter Kevin Cray from Otsego and Zach Skoglund from Zimmermann.
Scaling operator: A guy named Randy at a UPS store on Olson Memorial Road in Golden Valley. (More on this later.)
The age of the fish is unknown, but there are clues. The fish had a fin that was trimmed before planting in certain years, meaning it – it was a female – either 13 (unlikely), 22 (likely), or 29 (possibly). Sprengeler provided the DPR with Kleitrum, a bone from a fish that can confirm its real age.
SOONER OR LATER …
Few doubted the 1957 record would fall, but Sprengler’s musk would nonetheless likely serve as overwhelming proof that Minnesota would take its place among the modern muscle monster catching destinations in America. (The official world record recognized by most organizations – 69 pounds and 11 ounces of Louis Spray musk – was caught on the Chippewa Flow in northwestern Wisconsin, but it was 1949, a different era – and one was full of controversy over musk records. .)
The idea that Minnesota’s record-breaking fish is hiding in Mill Lux and other major lakes in Minnesota, such as Lake Vermilion, is not surprising to those who have plied the water for decades in search of giant musks. Many fish have been caught, measured, photographed and recorded on video, which would undoubtedly set the record for success. books.
In 1969, the state began sporadic stocking of Mill Lacks, a massive 132,500-acre lake in central Minnesota that became a monstrous alternative to its famous zander. In the 2000s, specialized fishing for musk using up to 100lb line and strong back rods that throw lures the size of a large men’s boot became very popular with the hardy group of anglers. This coincided with a particularly violent breed of musk – the Leech Lake variety – which has been bred consistently at Mille Lacs since 1989, into adulthood.
“I guess it doesn’t surprise me because I’ve seen reports of all this huge fish caught,” said Tom Heinrich, DPR fisheries area inspector at Mille Lacs. “This is a special fish.”
DNR has a whole family of records of catching and releasing fish that are photographed, measured and released, in keeping with the musky mantra of “let them go, let them grow.” This was the record for catch and release of musk that Sprengeler first calculated to set, as that record is currently held by two 57.25-inch fish from Lake Vermilion. But after an hour of trying to wake up, it was clear the fish was going to die, he said.
“ALL OR NOTHING”
The 27-year-old Sprengeler works in Plymouth’s public works department during the day, he said, but hunts for big musks during other waking hours.
“I visit almost every weekend,” he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. While musks can be caught all summer long, big fish anglers know that the last fall season, right before freezing, is when the largest fish feed on fatty bait such as whitefish, growing in size as they gather pounds. for the long winter ahead.
Cray wrote to Sprengler on Monday warning him of the drop in temperature.
“He said it would probably be our last day of the year until everything froze over,” Sprengeler said.
There was a definite desire to go on a trip for Sprengeler, who mourned his recently deceased neighbor and good friend. He left work early.
Launching Sprengler’s boat turned out to be a business for him, the Edge and Skoglund, as the harbors and bays began to freeze. The team cut the ice before launch, and they did not go out into the open water until 4:30 pm.
“This was not really our original plan, but we assumed we were already there, so we could fish as well,” Sprengeler said, adding that the phase of the moon and the approaching moonrise are two factors that are suspected researchers, can influence the behavior of musk, – were favorable. Monday morning.
They cast baits in the dark at temperatures below 20 degrees.
“It was terrible,” he chuckled. “You are dealing with ice lines and ice guide lines. But we always say that when you fish in late fall and fish that size, you’re either going all-in or nothing. ”
“LAST HOUR OF LAST DAY”
“About an hour after moonrise, I got the pipe I had been looking for all year and immediately knew it was something special,” Sprengeler said.
The battle itself was rather short, with the fish “some ridiculous head-shaking” before he guided it into the stable net that Cray was holding. In the dim headlights, he said he didn’t realize how huge the fish was until he held it in his lap to take a photo and tried to pick it up – and failed. Cray joined him for the photo, which on Wednesday was well targeted at virality in social media fishing circles.
The bad news was that the fish sucked the bait deeply with its toothy mouth, and the hooks became entangled in the gills.
“It sucks,” said Sprengeler, who said they spent an hour trying to revive him after quickly plunging him back into the water. “We made the decision that we must respect and weigh him.”
So they shoved him into the well of his boat and headed back to the shore. When they got there, new ice formed. It took about half an hour boat and trailer ride back and forth to break enough ice to hit the boat. Nothing was opened with a scale suitable for snuff, so Sprengeler put the fish in bed under several ice bags and tried to sleep for a few hours.
The next morning, with the help of a few friends, they found a scale large enough to support the fish’s probable weight, but accurate enough to measure ounces.
It so happened that at about 9 am on Tuesday, Sprengeler walked into the lobby of UPS Golden Valley, carrying a cold, dead fish weighing nearly 56 pounds. “Randy was happy with that — he was that man,” Sprengeler said, referring to the store employee, known only by name, who was in charge of the business. Randy could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Sprengeler then stuffed the fish back into the well – “I dragged my boat everywhere because I have nowhere else to put this fish” – and drove to the DPR Western Metro Fisheries Department, where District Inspector Darryl Ellison checked the fish. like a pure musky breath.
And then he drove to Conover, Wisconsin, a small crossroads in northeastern Wisconsin, home to the famous Lax Taxidermy, whose owner Rick Lacks agreed to make a traditional fish hide and mold it so that a replica could be replicated. a method that Lax’s father helped pioneer.
During the whirlwind, Sprengeler’s phone exploded as he told the story repeatedly.
“This is a very close-knit group of guys that I fish with and that was the path that we all went on. It’s still incredible that things turned out the way they were: the last release of the season was mostly in the last hour for it to happen that way. This is the end of the storybook.
“But now I’ll probably take a nap.”