It took four months, but Minnesota’s DNR now has officially certified a giant muskie caught June 11 on Mille Lacs Lake, north of Minneapolis, as the new state record for catch-and-release muskellunge.
The giant 58.25-inch fish hit a foot-long trolled muskie plug used by angler Eric Bakke of Princeton, Minn. His paperwork recording the catch-and-release of the prized species as a state record was officially accepted by DNR on Oct. 24.
Bakke was fishing with angling pal Jon Blood when the muskie struck his trolled lure. He battled the fish for a couple minutes and Blooded netted the massive fish. Then the two of them boated, measured, photographed and released it.
They reported the muskie was released in less than 60 seconds back into Mille Lacs, where it can live, spawn and grow even larger.
“To be able to target and catch fish of this caliber has been one of the great passions of my life,” Bakke told DNR.
“In order to catch more and bigger fish you have to put them back: ‘let them go, let them grow.’ This record should and will be broken in the next year or two if we all make the choice to keep all those big fish alive and swimming for the next person to experience and catch a fish of their lifetime.”
Bakke’s 58.25-inch muskie had an estimated weight of about 65 pounds, according to In-Fisherman’s conversion table for inches to weight for prized muskies.
Bakke’s new record bettered a tie for Minnesota’s catch-and-release muskies of 57.25 inches caught in 2019 and 2021 from Lake Vermilion.
The IGFA All-Tackle record muskie is a 67.5-pound fish, caught in 1949 by angler Cal Johnson from Lake Court Oreilles, Wis.
Bakke was thankful, humble and forward-thinking about his record catch.
“I’d like to say thank you to all of the people who have caught that fish over the past 20-plus years, took care of her and put her back,” he said. “She is still out there for all of you to go try to catch again.”