When Mike Anderson hooked the fish, he was hoping it was a walleye. But he quickly figured out he had something a lot bigger than a walleye on his line.
Anderson, 53, and his son Travis Anderson, both of Barnum, were just tuning up on June 2 for last weekend’s Kolar Toyota ALS Walleye Tournament on Island Lake when Mike hooked a monster muskie.
“We knew we had something special,” Mike Anderson said.
The fish measured 55 inches long and had a girth of 25¼ inches, Anderson said. Length-girth-weight conversion charts put the estimated weight of the fish at about 43 pounds.
Anderson says he doesn’t do much muskie fishing. He and Travis were jigging for walleyes on that Thursday, a couple of days before the June 4 ALS Walleye Tournament.
“We were obviously pre-fishing for walleyes near the river in the north end,” Anderson said. “I was using a jig and a leech and 6-pound-test line.”
Jigging in 16 to 18 feet of water, the fish hit with just a “tick,” much like a walleye would, Anderson said. But that subtle behavior didn’t last long.
“She ran three times,” Anderson said. “It took 12 to 14 minutes just to get a look at her.”
The Andersons had only a walleye net in Mike’s boat, but it was a fairly deep walleye net, Mike said. He gave his son specific instructions.
“I said, ‘Once we get her close, once that head gets in the net, follow through with whatever you can get in there. She kind of folded into it. (Travis) grabbed the base of the handle and the hoop of the net to get her in.”
The fish was a sight to behold, Anderson said.
“It was amazing to see the girth and sheer size of every part of her,” he said.
The Andersons quickly measured the fish, which was a pale silver in color and marred with gouges and cuts, Mike Anderson said.
“She was only out of the water for two minutes total. I knew she was stressed,” he said.
Then the two men released the fish.
“She stayed upright and went back to the depths,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, she made it.”
He is having a reproduction mount made of the fish.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been stocking muskies in Island Lake on a regular basis since 1992, said Deserae Hendrickson, DNR area fisheries supervisor at French River. The DNR does a muskie sampling on Island Lake every five years. The largest muskie sampled so far by the DNR was 52.8 inches long, in 2012, said Dan Wilfond, DNR fisheries specialist at French River.
Muskies are obviously doing well in the lake.
“It has some good habitat variability, a lot of deeper sections where you have a steep drop-off next to a shallow area with vegetation,” Hendrickson said. “There are a lot of fish species that hang right off that edge. Those are areas that northern pike and muskies seem to like.”
Anderson’s big Island Lake muskie isn’t the largest fish he has caught. This spring, fishing the Rainy River near Baudette, he landed a 65-inch sturgeon.