Big burbot looks like probable state record

Bemidji, Minn. — Aaron Guthrie had no idea catching a big fish would be like this.

“It’s been kind of a whirlwind the past few days,” the 35-year-old Bemidji resident said. “Radio shows, newspaper interviews – it’s been a lot of fun. We’re pretty proud of our burbot in Bemidji, so it’s definitely a good thing.”

The “it” he refers to?

The record-breaking burbot – or eelpout – he caught early last Friday morning at Lake of the Woods. The 19.54-pound fish, assuming all of the state record paperwork goes through, will eclipse the previous state record of 19 pounds, 3 ounces, which was caught on Lake of the Woods in 2001.

“It’s a beautiful fish; it’s just absolutely gorgeous,” said Dennis Topp, the DNR assistant area fisheries supervisor in Baudette, who identified the fish and helped Guthrie with the record application process.

Guthrie caught the fish on a spoon loaded with three fathead minnows at about 4:30 in the morning. He was fishing near Long Point, over mud in 34 feet of water.

He’d caught another eelpout an hour earlier, and hadn’t been lying in the sleeper house’s bed long when the reel began ticking again.

“I was lying down, but I’m not sure how hard I was really sleeping,” said Guthrie, who figures he fishes Lake of the Woods six to 10 times a year. “I heard the rattle click and wanted to get the ‘pout quick; I didn’t want it to tangle the other lines.

“I set the hook and thought, ‘wow, this thing’s got some size to it.’ ”

He began bringing the fish in hand-over-hand, and says it didn’t put of much of a fight until it was near the hole.

“She was actually moving my arms back and forth,” Guthrie said. “I probably tried six or 10 times to get her head turned to the hole. But I was nervous she was going to get off, so I let her peel off more line.”

He finally got the fish into – and then out of – the hole.

Guthrie and his uncle weighed the fish on a 20-year-old spring scale and saw it weighed about 19 pounds.

Later on, he texted a buddy and told him about the big fish.

His friend, who knew a fish that size was close to a state record, asked, “What are you still doing on the ice?” Guthrie said.

He then brought the fish into Baudette to have it weighed on a certified scale, and to begin the record application paperwork.

The fish is already at the taxidermist.

Burbot decline

Topp figures there’s a happy side and a sad side to the story.

“It’s happy in that we have this huge burbot that’s been caught,” he said. “The sad part of this is their numbers seem to be on the decline.”

People still catch eelpout at Lake of the Woods, but not like they once did, Topp said.

“We don’t really have good information for them,” he said. “Our sampling methods don’t sample them very well. We don’t have a really good handle on the numbers here. But just what we see in our creel surveys of anglers, they are definitely down.”

Another record

According to the DNR’s Mike Kurre, there’s a new potential state record shovelnose sturgeon.

He heard about it Tuesday morning and said it appeared legitimate, but didn’t have any additional information. The current record shovelnose weighed 5 pounds, 9 ounces.

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