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John Myers column: Gunflint Trail museum is reader's top pick for state record walleye

Readers offer ideas on permanent home for Minnesota's record walleye.

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LeRoy Chiviotte with the state record walleye he caught on May 13, 1979. Duluth News Tribune Norhtland Outdoors readers suggested mutliple ideas for a permanent home for the now mounted fish, with the Chik-Wauk Museum on Saganaga Lake by far the most popular. (Photo Courtesy of LeRoy Chiviotte)
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Readers from across Minnesota and the U.S. have weighed in on where they think the stuffed, state-record walleye should end up some day to be forever preserved for public posterity, and by far the most popular location would bring the big fish back home.

Dozens of readers submitted ideas — ranging from big box sporting goods stores and bait shops to the famed Bell Museum of Natural History in St. Paul and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, where the Minnesota Vikings play.

But the location that got the most votes was the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center on Saganaga Lake, at the end of the Gunflint Trail.

As the crow flies, the museum is only about 1 mile from where, on May 13, 1979, LeRoy Chiovitte caught the massive 17-pound, 8-ounce walleye that measured 35 and 3/4 inches long and 21 and 1/4 inches around the belly. The certified state record has now held for 42 years.

The museum, once a thriving fishing lodge by the same name, is now operated by the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. Several members of the society, including museum director Bobbie Schudy, emailed to say they would love to display the fish on its home water.

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“I hope it will come back home up here!’’ Schudy wrote.

Heck, it's possible the big walleye even swam by Chik-Wauk Lodge from time to time.

The museum opened in 2010 and is a shrine to the history of the region, especially as it revolved around fishing.

Museum at the end of the trail tells Gunflint's story

“We at Chik-Wauk are very familiar with the state record walleye,’’ said Bill Douglas, president of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. “In fact, I was here when this walleye was caught. It created quite a stir, and would create quite a stir to have on display in our nature center.”

This all started last week when I wrote that LeRoy Chiovitte passed away in 2019 with no specific plans on where his big fish should go after he was gone. The taxidermied fish, enclosed in a glass case, remains in his wife Joanne Chiovitte's apartment in Hermantown.

She said she and LeRoy had talked a little about donating the fish to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Museum in Hayward. But the museum’s director told the News Tribune they simply don’t have room for any more stuffed walleyes.

John Myers column: Minnesota state record walleye needs a permanent home

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So when we asked readers to submit ideas for the fish, they came through. Big time.

More than two-dozen suggestions were offered, including the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame in Little Falls, Cabela's-Bass Pro Shops stores, managers at both the Eden Prairie and St. Cloud Scheels stores offered to take the mount; the co-owner of Thorne Brothers tackle store in Blaine, Minnesota, wants it; and the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth was suggested, as was the Superior National Forest Ranger Station in Ely, the Gooseberry Falls State park interpretive center and various bait shops across the state. Oddly, the Minnesota DNR hasn't offered any indication on whether they might want it for display.

I mean, who wouldn’t want such a famous, conversation-starting piece of Minnesota history in their shop?

Joanne Chiviotte isn’t in any hurry to get rid of the fish. She said she and her family will need to talk about it in more detail before deciding who should get it and where it should go in the future. But she has said she would like to see it end up somewhere people can see it.

So here you go, Joanne, a stringer-full of ideas for your favorite fish.

We’ll report back if we hear any word.

For more information on the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Area go to gunflinthistory.org.

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John Myers

John Myers col sig.jpg
John Myers

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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