Updated: Friday, Feb. 15 | Posted: Thursday, Feb. 14
A bid for the record for the biggest fish ever hauled in by a Minnesota angler may not be a monster sturgeon's first brush with fame.
Jeremy Levasseur of Stillwater said based on the video and photos of the fish pulled from the frozen St. Croix River on Saturday by a Jordan, Minn., angler, it's the third time that sturgeon has been pulled out of the river.
Levasseur said he submitted a bid for the state record with the same sturgeon last year, but his measurement pictures were so blurry that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wouldn't confirm the record.
"I'm sure it's the same fish," said Levasseur, who, as it happens, spoke Thursday to MPR News from the ice on Lake Superior where he was fishing for lake trout.
He said he measured the St. Croix sturgeon at 77 inches long with a 28-inch girth. "On the dorsal fin, it has the same pink and same deformity that mine does," he said. "This was a fish of a lifetime."
He said he was bank fishing with gizzard shad on Halloween last year on the St. Croix, and had a pretty good idea that there was a monster lurking below.
He said another fisherman, Trevor Slifka, reported hauling the same fish into his boat in the middle of the river 11 days before.
Slifka said he, too, landed the fish. "That fish is a Houdini and has been caught multiple times by different fishermen," he wrote on his Facebook page. "I've got photos of people catching that fish from 2014."
Levasseur said he was down at the river when his rod started to bend about 3 p.m. He said he hauled it in as quick as he could.
"It's pretty snaggy and rocky, and I had to get that fish up on the surface and get it in or else that fish would have broken me off. So I got it up pretty quick," Levasseur said.
Levasseur told his story the day Darren Troseth, another St. Croix angler, was awaiting word that his catch of a 78-inch sturgeon in the same area qualified for the state record.
In an email to MPR News Friday, DNR official Shannon Fisher said "fisheries staff and conservation officers concluded that Mr. Troseth's sturgeon qualifies to be certified as a new Lake Sturgeon Catch-and-Release State Record."
The confirmation makes it the biggest fish ever landed by an angler in Minnesota. The previous catch-and-release record is for a 73-inch fish on the Rainy River in far northern Minnesota, and a catch-and-keep certified weight record stands at 94 pounds on the Minnesota record roster.
Levasseur said he plans to return to the St. Croix and try to hook the fish again. He says he works part-time jobs, just enough to support his fishing habit.
"I go pretty much every day," he said. "Hopefully next time, I'll get an 80-incher."