MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — James Yerhart has been an angler his whole life. The Friday before the fishing opener he, his friend and uncle took a 14-foot boat on the Mississippi for what was a mostly slow fishing day.
“Just because the fishing is slow, don’t mean you aren’t going to hook that big one,” said Yerhart. “If you do, it makes your day.”
Call it a premonition, because less than an hour after saying that, something happened.
“As I hooked it and thought I had another snag, I had my body in a position like, oh no, not another snag,” said Yerhart.
But then the line shifted downstream and fast. Yerhart’s friend Eli Mathias was in the boat with him.
“Right then and there he said, ‘We gotta pull this anchor up, this is a fish, and it’s big,’” said Mathias.
The fish took them for an almost hour-long ride, man versus fish.
“At that time it was pretty much just a big battle between me and the fish,” said Yerhart.
It was a test of strength at both ends of the line. Then, they got a glimpse of the beast.
“I mean, we were freaking out. We were like, ‘Jesus that thing’s huge!’ I couldn’t believe it,” said Mathias.
“It just looked like a big seal swimming next to the boat. Literally that’s what it looked like,” said Yerhart.
It was time for the guys to strategize.
“I knew with my rig there was no way it was coming up. I knew there was no way I was going to get that fish off the bottom,” said Yerhart.
So they drove to shore and pulled him in.
“It took all three of us, everything we had, to get it out of the water,” said Mathias.
The massive catch was a sturgeon: 70 inches long and 27.5 inches around.
“We believe it was well over 100 pounds,” said Yerhart.
After snapping a few trophy photos, the guys released the sturgeon back into the water.
But James Yerhart kept a fish tale he can tell again and again.
“The fish was this big, literally,” Yerhart said as he stretched his arms wide.
Yerhart said despite the long and tiring day, he didn’t sleep much that night.
The official state record sturgeon weighed 94 pounds, 4 ounces, was 70 inches long and had a girth of 26.5 inches.
Because he had to set the catch free, Yerhart doesn’t know if he officially broke the record.