A fisherman from Princeton, Minnesota, has officially broken the state record for the largest muskie caught nearly five months after its catch-and-release.
Eric Bakke reeled in the massive fish on June 11 while trolling on Mille Lacs Lake about 75 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officially accepted and recorded the fish on Oct. 31st.
The muskie, which is formally known as muskellunge, was longer than the width of Bakke’s shoulders at 58.25 inches. At the time, Minnesota had a tied record in the books with two fish that measured 57.25-inch each. Those muskies were both from Lake Vermilion. The first was caught in 2019 and the second in 2021.
“To be able to target and catch fish of this caliber has been one of the great passions of my life,” Bakke told the MDNR.
Record-Holding Angler Asks Fellow Fishers to Catch-and-Release so Muskies Have a Chance to Grow
Bakke used a foot-long muskie lure to bring in his champion, according to reports. Once the fish bit, Bakke reeled it in and had his friend, Jon Blood, net it. Then the two measured the catch, took photographic proof, and then threw it back into the water.
In all, the fish stayed above water for less than one minute. Because of the quick turnaround, it will survive for another fishing champion.
“In order to catch more and bigger fish, you have to put them back. ‘Let them go, let them grow,’” Bakke shared. “This record should and will be broken in the next year or two if we all make the choice to keep all those big fish alive and swimming for the next person to experience and catch a fish of their lifetime.”
The angler is a part of Muskies Inc., a nonprofit that promotes muskie research, conservation, and hatcheries. The Waukesha, Wisconsin-based organization also preaches good sportsmanship.
Luckily, MDNR recognizes catch-and-releases in its state record fish program as long as officials can properly verify the measurements. The fish are certified by length, girth, and weight.
The release length program “is being cross-promoted with the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame’s Master Angler Program, which recognizes 60 fish species,” the MDNR wrote on its website.
“I’d like to say thank you to all of the people who have caught that fish over the past 20-plus years, took care of her, and put her back,” Bakke continued. “She is still out there for all of you to go try to catch again.”