Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Huge Vermilion muskie released

Hastings, Minn. – If you want to catch big muskies, be prepared
for the discomforts you’ll likely encounter in the process.

Long-time muskie anglers Randy Porubcan and Gene Crowder took on
snow, wind, and temperatures in the mid-20-degree range on Oct. 24,
but for their efforts they were rewarded with a 59-inch Lake
Vermilion muskie that may have – had it not been released –
challenged the state record. The fish’s girth was 29 inches. The
state record is a 54-pounder that came from Lake
Winnibigoshish.

“I’ve never kept a (muskie), and neither has Randy,” Crowder
said earlier this week.

It wasn’t for lack of knowing that the big muskellunge may have
been record material.

“After the fish was back in the water, Randy said, ‘You know, I
think we may have probably released a state record.’ ”

Crowder and Porubcan were part of a crew of muskie fanatics
gathered at Vermilion Dam Lodge last weekend for the annual Larry
Ramsell Muskie Outing. Besides fishing, those partaking in the
event also gain and share new knowledge about the sport.

Crowder, 70, already had knowledge about Vermilion; he’s been
fishing the lake for more than a decade. Porubcan, 64, began
fishing Vermilion with Crowder just last year; the two met while
muskie fishing on Eagle Lake in Ontario several years ago.

It was about 1 p.m. when the fish took the bait, according to
Crowder. The duo was fishing near Hinsdale Island in the Smarts Bay
area. “The wind was blowing right down the channel we were in,” he
said. “Spray was freezing on my glasses.”

Crowder and Porubcan were trolling, Crowder with a 14-inch
firetiger-colored Jake that trailed about 60 feet behind the boat.
Crowder said he’d been “ticking bottom” in about 12 feet of water,
and they were passing through about 20 feet of water, approaching
an underwater hump that rose to around 10 feet. He slowed the motor
as the depth decreased, causing the somewhat buoyant lure to rise
in the water column.

“That’s when she hit,” Crowder said. He was the first to battle
the fish when he pulled the rod out of its holder.

But strong winds were pushing his boat toward the rocks – the
wind was whipping 20 to 30 mph – so he handed the outfit to
Porubcan, and motored the boat out of danger.

Porubcan kept reeling, and about 10 yards from the boat the fish
surfaced, giving the men their first look at its immense size.

While Porubcan pulled the fish to the boat, Crowder readied the
net. “It took three tries” to net the fish, he said.

While Crowder held the fish, Porubcan cut the barbs on the lure,
secured in the fish’s mouth. It took both anglers to hoist the fish
into the boat, during which time, Crowder said, Porubcan tumbled
back onto his tackle box.

They were able to measure the fish’s length, then use a string
to mark and later measure its girth. The fish was nursed in the
water for about 5 minutes before it regained its strength and swam
away, Crowder said.

“All the work (hook removal, etc.) was done in the water,” he
said. “Then we took her out for a couple pictures.”

The cold weather benefitted the fish, Crowder said. “If it had
been summer, she’d have only made it (survived) if everything was
done in the water.”

While both anglers have fished solo for muskies, Crowder said
it’s a good thing they tag-teamed for this catch. He once caught a
52-inch muskie by himself in Ontario, and called the resulting
chaos in the boat a “disco.”

The Vermilion fish’s size, coupled with the day’s weather, made
a team effort necessary.

“If either one of us would’ve gotten this fish ourself, it
wouldn’t have turned out so well,” Crowder said.

Several “muskie calculators” exist. The formulas can be used to
determine a fish’s weight, based only on length, or on length and
girth.

“(They’re) pretty well accepted” as accurate, according to Ed
Tausk, owner of Vermilion Dam Lodge. “They’ll usually get you
within ounces.”

For example, according to OutdoorsFIRST.com, the fish would’ve
weighed about 62 pounds. (To get that estimate, multiply girth
times girth times length, divided by 800.)

Tausk said the fish might have been a bit longer (the tail
wasn’t pinched in measuring it), and it’s difficult to know from
the photo if the girth is accurate because there’s no measuring
tape around the fish (Porubcan held the fish against his body to
protect it).

Crowder, a retired Northwest Airlines worker, now works as a
fishing associate for Gander Mountain in Woodbury. Porubcan
operates a health supplement company in Victoria.

Crowder said after he and Porubcan landed the 59-incher, they
fished another five hours. Then they went out the next day for a
half-day of fishing. Earlier this week, Crowder was prepping for
another trip to Vermilion.

In nearly two decades of muskie fishing, Crowder said he’s
accumulated about 200 muskie lures. “Randy probably has double that
amount,” he said.

Tausk said he found the two metro anglers at their cabin when
they returned from catching the 59-incher.

“They were having a scotch; they seemed a little shaken,” he
said.

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