On the Rainy River, the lake sturgeon record that got away
My time on the Rapid River was brief.
I had moved from a cabin on a stretch of the river not far from where it flows into the better-known Rainy River near Clementson well before spring ice-out a few years back.
But I heard about ice-out on the Rapid. Probably saw it, too — in the form of dirtier water in the Rainy during the spring fishing frenzy, what with the debris, grass and muddy water that inevitably comes when these tributaries break loose from their winter confines.
One by one in the last week or so, these rivers — the Rapid included — have been “popping.” And as a result, according to a post on the Lake of the Woods Tourism website, water clarity in the Rainy River went from over 3 feet to less than a foot in recent days.
That makes it more challenging to catch the prize of the Rainy in the spring — big walleyes. But according to the post, there have been reports of boats coming in with 50 walleyes or more.
Still, with the dirtier water, some anglers have opted to fish for another prize of the Rainy — lake sturgeon, which seemingly are more apt to bite than walleyes in dirty water. And yet other anglers catch sturgeon while specifically targeting walleye — that’s not unusual at all.
Taylor Schroeder, a school teacher in Hibbing, said he landed what could have been a state record sturgeon on the Rainy while fishing with two friends for walleyes a week ago (March 30) — about the time the Rapid was breaking up. Schroeder said it measured 69 inches and, using a conversion chart to estimate weight, he figured the fish was about 90 pounds.
“Our only chance was to chase this fish as I had 6-pound test on a medium-light rod,” he said in another LOTW Tourism post. “We really gained on it when it swam into shallower water and couldn’t get deep on us. Eventually, we caught up to it and lassoed the tail with a rope.”
Although he has photos of the fish, he didn’t take the required photos. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources state record application form for lake sturgeon, there must be a photo of the fish alongside a measuring device as well as another image of the angler holding the fish for it to be eligible for the record books.
The current catch-and-release state record lake sturgeon, also from the Rainy River, is 67.5 inches.
“It would have beat the current catch-and-release record by an inch-and-a-half, had my fishing partners or I known it was a record when I caught it,” Schroeder said in an email. “I actually had the fish on twice, and got my jig back from the first time I hooked it. It was a remarkable fish with a remarkable story.
“It didn’t cross my mind to consider this fish as a state record sturgeon as I have heard of much bigger sturgeon caught,” Schroeder said in the LOTW Tourism story. “Looking at the current record, it would have been a new Minnesota catch-and-release state record lake sturgeon. That’s OK, though — we have the memory and experience of catching this fish and that’s good enough.”
Along with catching several other big sturgeon that day, the three also reportedly landed a number of nice walleyes, including a 28-incher.