Famous fish: St. Croix sturgeon crowned as new champion, receives national attention

Headline-grabbing behemoth caught through the river ice has been certified as the largest in Minnesota history.




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Darren Troseth (left) and John Kimble hold the record-sized sturgeon. (Photo courtesy Darren Troseth)

The giant Lake Sturgeon caught on the St. Croix River by Darren Troseth two weeks ago has now been confirmed as the new record-sized specimen of its species ever reported in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources certified the fish as the catch-and-release record, though it was even bigger than any fish in the record books that had been caught and killed.

The DNR shared this story of Troseth, who lives in Jordan, Minn, catching the fish:

Troseth and his fishing companion, John Kimble, were ice fishing on the St. Croix near Bayport. To get away from other anglers, they were at a location they had never fished before. When he hooked the record fish, Troseth was fishing out of a double hole he’d prepared. With his auger battery about to die, he was able to drill a third hole – but the fish still did not fit.

So Troseth took to Facebook to put out a call for help to anyone in the area with an auger. Within a few minutes, two anglers who Troseth and Kimble had never met before showed up with an auger and expanded the hole. Now with five holes, the sturgeon could barely fit through. With the help of his fishing companion, Troseth was able to land the lake sturgeon.

DNR certifies huge lake sturgeon as new catch-and-release state record, Feb. 25, 2019

To qualify for a catch-and-release record, anglers must submit two photos, one showing the fish clearly with a measuring instrument, and one of the angler with the fish.

Five DNR fisheries staff, two conservation officers, and the state record certification official reviewed Troseth’s application and approved it. The fish was certified as 78 inches long (6.5 feet) and 29.5 inches around. Troseth estimated it weighed 120 lbs.

The National Park Service explained the fish was most likely unharmed by the brief encounter with Troseth.

“Lake sturgeon are remarkably tough fish, and being caught most likely did this big fish no harm,” Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway staff wrote on Facebook. “In fact, getting caught was probably one of the best things to happen to him and other sturgeon lately as the news of this big fish is doing a lot to increase awareness of sturgeon conservation and the amazing St. Croix River fishery!”

Famous fish

After St. Croix 360 reported the catch on Feb. 12, it was covered broadly by Minnesota media, and eventually national outlets.

“I’m so happy you contacted me right away and put out an accurate and well written story,” Troseth said. “I’m using your link as a reference for all my inquiries that are coming in.”

USA Today and Fox News both quoted St. Croix 360 in their coverage.

Minnesota Public Radio News reported how it’s believed the same fish may have been caught two other times recently:

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.”

Monster St. Croix sturgeon may be a champion at getting caught, Feb. 14, 2019

Due to its size, the fish is estimated to be 60 to 70 years old. It may only be middle-aged, as the species can live past 100.

Success symbol

St. Croix River sturgeon
Upper St. Croix River sturgeon being measured by a MN DNR crew. (Courtesy MN DNR)

The fact that such a big, old fish still swims in the St. Croix is proof of how protection and restoration has benefited the river. After decades of work, the fish are not only here, but in great enough numbers to support limited fishing.

Sturgeon were once almost entirely wiped out in the St. Croix and many other waters where they had lived for millennia. European settlers slaughtered them for food, including their eggs, and for fuel, burning the fatty flesh like whale blubber.

The National Park Service explains how Troseth’s fish and many others that live in the river are a testament to sound stewardship and petience.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency echoed that sentiment in an article referencing Troseth’s fish:

MPCA biological monitoring staff collect fish samples throughout the state to help determine water quality conditions. The two largest sturgeon collected by MPCA sampling were 60 inches on Rainy River and 57 inches on the St. Croix River.

Because sturgeon are a long-lived species and are sensitive to pollution, they are good indicators of water quality and environmental health.

To catch a sturgeon, MPCA

The St. Croix is a refuge for sturgeon because it is clean and healthy. And thanks to a combination of historic factors, the DNR Conservation Volunteer reported two years ago:

It’s likely that good water quality helped prevent lake sturgeon from being extirpated in the St. Croix River after European settlement. But rafts of timber floating down the St. Croix River during the logging boom in the 1800s and early 1900s may have also made exploiting lake sturgeon difficult, according to DNR fisheries specialist Joel Stiras.

Whatever combination of factors allowed lake sturgeon to hang on in the St. Croix River, the fish began to receive modest legal protection beginning in 1920 with a Minnesota law that required sturgeon less than 15 pounds to be released. In 1947 the Department of Conservation enacted a daily limit of one sturgeon 30 inches or longer. As decades passed the minimum length for harvest increased, but one sturgeon a day was allowed until 1992, when the creel limit changed to one fish over 50 inches per year during a special fall season. In 2009 the limit was changed to one sturgeon over 60 inches.

A Whopper of a Recovery, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, May-June 2017

Last word

Minneapolis-based YouTube fishing show “Another Fishing Show” posted an in-depth interview with Troseth a few days, covering the story of the catch, the status of the St. Croix fishery, and much more.

[su_youtube_advanced url=”https://youtu.be/_q1d_ceqna4″ width=”1000″ modestbranding=”yes” https=”yes”]

In the video, Troseth discusses one negative side of the episode. Several other anglers have accused Troseth of snagging the fish, not catching it legally. The allegations are based on a brief view of the hook in the video Troseth posted.

While it appears the hook is lodged just outside the sturgeon’s mouth as they bring it through the ice, Troseth says that’s probably because it had moved.

“When Minnesota DNR says snagging, they mean intentional snagging. You can’t do that anywhere in Minnesota. People think because a hook isn’t in the mouth now that’s intentionally snagging.

“John and I were both looking down the hole and we both seen the hook in the mouth.

“We tried to bring that fish through the hole I don’t know how many times. If you have saw a sturgeon’s mouth, a fish that size, its sucker probably comes out 10-12 inches. At some point the hook got transferred outside the mouth.”

Through St. Croix 360’s posting, I saw several comments making the accusations. It seemed sadly typical of our society’s tendency to overreact to small controversies.

Video host Greg Underdahl closed with some wisdom about online behavior: “Treat people on the Internet like you would treat people in person.”

And, Underdahl said, “I think a lot of it has to do with envy.”


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Famous fish: St. Croix sturgeon crowned as new champion, receives national attention