MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Anglers around the state spent the weekend on the water to mark the start of the Minnesota fishing season.
Bragging rights typically go to the person in the group who reels in the biggest fish, but to actually get a state record is another feat.
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, nearly every fish tale has the same beginning. It starts with rod and reel in hand and bait in the water.
Yet after the first tug of the lure, those stories tend to differ.
“I caught a fish, and it was a green sunfish,” said Corey Thompson, the green sunfish record-holder.
Most anglers wouldn’t talk up a pan fish. Thompson earned those bragging rights when he reeled in the state’s largest green sunfish.
“I just happened to be lucky that day and pulled in an amazing catch,” Thompson said.
Eleven years ago, Thompson dropped a line in North Arbor Lake in Maple Grove in search of bass or pike.
“I wasn’t expecting to catch pan fish that day,” Thompson said.
Instead, he reeled in a 1.4 pound sunny that earned him a spot in Minnesota’s fishing history.
“It’s all about getting out there and being at right place at right time,” Thompson said.
If reeling in one record-breaker is difficult, reeling in two is nearly impossible. Chad Wentzel accomplished that feat on the Root River near Lanesboro.
“I hold the state record for golden redhorse in Minnesota,”Wentzel said . “I’ve been told it doesn’t happen very often.”
In 2014, a night crawler lured in Wentzel’s four pound golden redhorse. One year later, to the day, he pulled in another trophy.
“It was one ounce bigger,” Wentzel said. “This one actually had a lamprey stuck on it when we wheeled it in.”
Wentzel is used to the questions that come with being a record-holder, especially when many confuse his catch for invasive carp. His notoriety helps him educate other anglers on sucker fish.
“The redhorse is a type of sucker native to Minnesota,” Wentzel said. “They fight strong and taste great.”
When speaking of the fight, anglers know it’s a guarantee with big game fish.
“The fight was the most nerve racking part of it,” said Josh Stevenson, the Minnesota record holder for tiger muskie.
Fifteen years after snagging his record setting tiger muskie, Stevenson remembers the struggle on Lake Elmo.
“It knew it was hooked and it came up from the deep, and then it was really on,” Stevenson said. “We knew it was over 50 inches and knew it was special at that time. The spinner bait we caught it on was only in the top of the mouth, and the fight lasted so long it worn a hole in fish’s mouth, so it could have come out at any time.”
Ten minutes later, Stevenson’s once-in-a-lifetime catch set the course for his future. He’s built his career around fishing as both a guide and owner of Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle.
He knows his record will eventually fall, but he hopes to see it happen.
“I would love to pass the baton,” Stevenson said. “It was such a neat thing for me and helped my career I want that for someone else.”
Other state record-holders include:
Mark Ravling, who caught an 8-pound, 15-ounce largemouth bass in Auburn Lake in 2005.
Leroy Chiovitte, who caught a 17-pound, 8-ounce walleye on the Seagull River at Saganaga Lake in 1979.
The youngest record holder is Austin Stoll, who caught his 5-pound, 13-ounce tullibee on Sybil Lake in 2015.
To see all the Minnesota fishing records, click here.
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