Assignment for today: Catch sturgeon

BAUDETTE, Minn. -- Grant Slukynsky is playing a sturgeon now, and judging by the bend in his pole, the fish is giving the 9-year-old everything he can handle.

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BAUDETTE, Minn. -- Grant Slukynsky is playing a sturgeon now, and judging by the bend in his pole, the fish is giving the 9-year-old everything he can handle.

We've been fishing less than 10 minutes.

Compared to this, scoring goals might be a walk in the park for the third-grader from Warroad, Minn., a boy of few words. It takes some prodding, but Slukynsky admits he tickled the twine 19 times in five games during a recent hockey tournament in the Twin Cities.

Right now, though, he's too busy fighting a sturgeon to revel in that past glory.

Wade Boroos, ringleader of this Easter Monday sturgeon excursion, stands at the ready, just in case Slukynsky needs help reeling in the fish.


First, though, he offers this bit of advice:

"Just pretend it's a Roseau hockey player," Boroos, 49, of Warroad, says.

And Roseau, as everyone on the planet knows, is Warroad's biggest hockey rival.

The tip is good for a few laughs, but it also seems to work; Slukynsky's first-ever sturgeon is in the boat minutes later. He takes a pass on holding the 38-inch fish for a photo -- he leaves that to Boroos -- but the smile on Slukynsky's face says all there is to say.

That, and his single-word description:


It's not a bad way to start a day off from school.

Streiff connection


Also joining Boroos on this sunny April morning is Nick Marvin and Clay Heppner, 12. Boroos and Marvin, 29, who serves as unofficial first mate and "sturgeon lander," are co-workers at Streiff Sporting Goods west of Warroad.

Slukynsky's mom, Jenny, and Heppner's mom, Connie, also work at the store.

Sturgeon fishing can mean long waits between bites, and Boroos has a cooler stocked with candy bars, venison jerky, pepper sticks and other goodies to keep the boys occupied in case the fish don't cooperate.

"You might not be able to eat that much candy at home, but in my boat, you can," Boroos tells the boys.

Don't tell their moms, but by day's end, the candy will be gone.

An avid sturgeon fisherman who occasionally takes regular store customers fishing, Boroos said he got hooked on the prehistoric-looking fish nearly a decade ago. This time of year, he spends every possible day targeting sturgeon, both in the Rainy River and in Four-Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods, where the fish tend to congregate in the spring.

In many ways, Marvin says, Boroos has become a sturgeon ambassador for the store.

"He's become pretty successful with it and because of that, people have, No. 1, come here for information, so he's been very helpful in setting people up and teaching the techniques and tactics," Marvin said. "He's been able to help the rest of us in the company become better fishermen, as well, and with that has come the opportunity for people to go out and fish with him."


Boroos' biggest sturgeon stretched the tape at 73 inches, and the largest to come into his boat so far this year measured 63 inches.

The attraction?

"Probably the pure power of them," he says. "That's why I started."

Gaining popularity

Boroos caught the fever before word got out and other anglers discovered the sturgeon's pure power. It might be a Monday morning, but nearly 30 boats anchor along the edge of the channel in Four-Mile Bay, where the Rainy River ends its 85-mile journey along the Minnesota-Ontario border and gives way to Lake of the Woods.

"You'd come out here, and there'd be three or four boats on a Saturday," Boroos said of those early years. "I know one thing -- sturgeon fishing has really helped our anchor sales."

Anchoring among a pack of boats is about as close to spectator sport as fishing gets, and howls of encouragement occasionally break the quiet of the morning as someone in the fleet plays a sturgeon. Every bite offers the potential to hook a fish weighing 100 pounds or more, and Boroos has had sturgeon that size in his boat on more than one occasion.

That, too, is part of the attraction. So is letting others experience the thrill. Boroos already has been out half a dozen times this spring and has yet to reel in a fish himself.


Today is no exception. Today is about the boys catching fish.

Heppner gets his chance -- and plenty of encouragement from the cheering section -- when he hooks into a sturgeon less than half an hour after Slukynsky.

Judging by the fishing rod, this sturgeon is no slouch, either.

"That fish is bigger than you are!" a particularly vocal fisherman yells from a neighboring boat. Boroos again is there to lend a hand and moral support, but Heppner handles the bulk of the battle and plays the sturgeon like the expert fisherman he is.

"I already told them, if they say 'Help!' I'm going to grab the rod," Boroos said. "They can keep reeling, but I'm going to grab the rod."

Heppner admits his arms are a "little bit sore" by the time he reels in the 41½-inch sturgeon, but his ear-to-ear grin proves it's nothing he can't handle.

Any way you measure it, catching the biggest fish of your life on a day off from school is a pretty good deal.

More talkative than his younger fishing partner, especially when the topic is fishing, Heppner said his previous biggest fish was a 38-inch northern he caught while casting from shore along the Warroad River, which flows past his family's backyard.


He also hooked a muskie once while fishing with his dad at the Northwest Angle, but the fish shook the lure at the side of the boat.

There's no doubt Heppner likes to fish. It's been that way, the sixth-grader said, since he caught his first fish, a perch, while fishing from the dock when he was about 4 years old.

"And I've been hooked ever since," he says matter-of-factly.

The best part of fishing, he says, is "Probably when you're bringing a big fish in, and it starts shaking its head."

Just fast enough

The wind picks up out of the northwest with just enough gusto to make fishing uncomfortable in Four-Mile Bay, so Boroos opts to pull anchor early in the afternoon and head for the more sheltered waters of the Rainy River.

The first two sturgeon of the morning prove to be the biggest. The fishing's not fast, by any means, but neither Slukynsky nor Heppner are particularly anxious to leave when Boroos and Marvin pull anchor and call it a day late that afternoon.

They've landed five sturgeon, missed or lost a handful of others and seen what can happen for anglers who put in their time.


"Now, you've just got to catch bigger ones," Boroos tells the boys.

And as so often happens to first-time sturgeon anglers, they're probably hooked for life.

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Streiff Sporting Goods: .

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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