Possible record catch could land Minnesota angler in trouble
DULUTH — A potential ice fishing world-record lake trout caught by a northern Minnesota man earlier this month has been confiscated from a Duluth taxidermist by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The catch is under investigation by enforcement officials with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, officials with the agency said.
The fish, which unofficially weighed more than 52 pounds, was confiscated Monday night from Bowe Taxidermy in Duluth, owner Randy Bowe said. It was confiscated by Scott Staples, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, Bowe said.
The Minnesota DNR is cooperating with Ministry of Natural Resources enforcement officials in the investigation. The fish was caught in Ontario waters of Lac La Croix, a border lake.
MNR conservation officer Joe Burroughs, based in Atikokan, Ontario, confirmed that the MNR is investigating the catch but offered no other details.
The angler, Rob Scott, 65, of Crane Lake, caught the large lake trout while fishing on Lac La Croix on Feb. 8. It was weighed at 52 pounds, 3 ounces, on a handheld scale later that day. The fish was 45 inches long with a 32-inch girth, Scott said. It was caught on a tip-up line, Scott said.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Scott said he caught two lake trout that day but gave the first one away after catching the larger lake trout. His limit was one lake trout.
The big lake trout hadn’t been weighed on a certified, official scale before it was confiscated, Bowe said. Scott had hoped to have the fish weighed officially and was considering having it submitted for record status.
According to the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis., the current ice fishing world record for a tip-up-caught lake trout is 29 pounds, 6 ounces. It was caught in 1996 in Willoughby Lake in Vermont.
Canadian officials would not say whether their investigation focuses on an over-limit issue or more specifically on the large lake trout.
Scott said he has a nonresident Ontario conservation fishing license. According to Ontario fishing regulations, that allows him to catch and possess one lake trout. He had caught a roughly 4-pound lake trout early in the morning on Feb. 8, he said. That fish was on the ice when two Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officers came by to check him, Scott said.
After he caught the big lake trout early in the afternoon, he kept it and gave the smaller lake trout to his nephew, who was fishing not far away on the lake, Scott said.
Ontario fishing regulations define a catch limit this way: “The catch limit is the number of fish you are allowed to catch and keep in one day and includes fish that are not immediately released and any fish eaten or given away.”
“I mean, it was the heat of the moment,” Scott said in Wednesday’s telephone interview. “I’m not trying to hide anything.”
“What I know to date is that on Monday the DNR came by to investigate my fishing on LLC (Lac La Croix) on Feb 8th and the possibility of an over-limit catch,” Scott wrote in an e-mail to the Duluth News Tribune on Wednesday.
Canadian conservation officers apparently learned about Scott’s second lake trout after it was reported in the media.
Scott, who owns Scott’s Peaceful Valley Resort on Crane Lake, said two Minnesota DNR conservation officers came to his home Monday evening and interviewed him about the lake trout he caught on Feb. 8. The officers were Darrin Kittelson of International Falls and Mark Fredin of Aurora, Kittelson said. They were acting in cooperation with Canadian enforcement officials.
“It’s under investigation,” Kittelson said. “Part of the investigation was to interview Mr. Scott in regard to the large trout that was caught.”
“I am not denying that it was a violation of the ‘party fishing’ rules, and I got caught,” Scott said in a statement by e-mail to the News Tribune on Wednesday.
Kittelson said the fish is in the possession of the Minnesota DNR and that the agency is making arrangements to transport the fish to MNR officials in Ontario.
“Knowing the importance of this fish being a world-record fish, we’re taking the utmost care to keep it in the same shape it was in when Mr. Scott brought it to the taxidermist,” Kittelson said.