Corey Kitzmann of Davenport, Iowa now holds Minnesota’s brand-new state record catch-and-release muskellunge, a 57¼-inch monster caught on Lake Vermilion this summer.
The fish, caught Aug. 6, had a 25½-inch girth and is estimated to have weighed about 47 pounds.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Monday said it has certified the fish as the new catch-and-release record. The previous record was a 56 7/8-inch fish caught on Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County in 2016.
Kitzmann’s family has a cabin on the popular lake that has produced many big muskies in recent years. He was fishing alone when the battle occurred, mostly thinking about the terrible news that a close friend had just died unexpectedly.
“I worked my way through my favorite milk run of spots with my newly tied bucktail, thinking about all the ways my buddy had impacted my life and the memories we had shared together,” Kitzmann told the DNR. “I’m not sure there is a better place in the entire world to reflect on life than in a boat on Lake Vermilion.”
After a couple of hours with no action, Kitzmann pulled up to one of his favorite spots that had been hot earlier in the week, fishing with his handmade bucktail and 80-pound line.
“When I set the hook, I knew immediately that I had a nice fish on. It wasn’t until the fish made its way to the side of the boat that I realized I had a true giant,” he said.
The fish made a couple of trips around the boat, under the trolling motor, and even gave a jump or two. Kitzmann grabbed his net and managed to make a successful scoop to net the fish and haul it into the boat.
A nearby boater and his family had been watching the fight unfold and Kitzmann waved his arms asking for help. A man pulled up, jumped in his boat and was able to take photos and assist with the release.
After a few photos, Kitzmann got the fish back in the water, supported its belly and watched the fish swim out of sight. He described what followed as two hours of floating aimlessly across the lake making phone calls to family and friends, including his dad who had gotten him into muskie fishing when he was 8 years old.
Minnesota’ official “kept” musky record was 56 inches long, weighed 54 pounds and had a 27 ¾ girth. It was caught in Lake Winnibigoshish in 1957.
To qualify as a traditional state record fish, the fish must be kept, killed and weighed on a certified scale. But Minnesota now has special catch-and-release state record categories for musky, northern pike, lake sturgeon and catfish. Find current records and guidelines for each type of state record at mndnr.gov/recordfish.