When Brent Getzler pulled his record-breaking burbot, through the ice, he says he had one overwhelming emotion. Disappointment.
"I was hoping it was a walleye," he said. "I've been trying for that giant walleye for years, and I thought I had it."
Today the Department of Natural Resources officially passed the state burbot record to Getzler's 19-pound, 10-ounce catch. It's 2 ounces heavier than the fish that broke the record five years ago.
Burbot, commonly known as eelpout, are not exactly desirable in the angling community. When asked to describe the giant fish he pulled from Lake of the Woods late last month, the only adjective Getzler could think of was "slimy."
According to his friend, Chad Thompson, who was with Getzler that afternoon, all that slime was the only reason they could pull the enormous fish out of their hole in the ice.
"It was a struggle," Thompson said.
Getzler and Thompson are both ice fishing guides at Sportsman's Lodge on Lake of the Woods. They spend their days dragging ice houses around the lake for lodge guests. Getzler said he'd taken an afternoon off to fish a spot north of Pine Island when he hooked the record burbot.
"Right away I knew it was big," he said.
He also knew it probably wasn't a walleye. He said it "bounced" on the end of the line, which is how burbot tend to fight. Even so, he said he held out hope for a walleye until the moment it broke the surface.
Once Getzler got it through the hole, he and Thompson began to realize just what they'd caught. They found a scale, and then they Googled the previous record.
"Once we realized it was over," Thompson said, "We had to go ashore and get it certified."
The fish is now in Getzler's freezer. He plans to get it stuffed and mounted on his wall. It might not be a walleye, he said, but it's still a record breaking catch.