When Andy Fronek went sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River for the first time last weekend, he thought it would be cool to catch a fish bigger than his kids, ages 9 and 11.
“Instead, I caught one bigger than me,” said Fronek, 41, of Eden Prairie.
Fronek stands 5-feet-10. His monster sturgeon measured 5-11. It had a 29-inch girth.
He caught the lunker on a gob of worms and fought it for 35 minutes. Once he got it into the boat “it was like wrestling a bear … with no teeth.”
“It had to be over 100 pounds,” Fronek said. “It was such a thrill.”
Minnesota’s lake sturgeon record is a 94-pound, 4-ounce fish caught in the Kettle River in 1994 that measured 70 inches long with a 26.5-inch girth. We’ll never know about Fronek’s fish. He caught it during the catch-and-release season, and quickly released it after snapping some photos.
And he couldn’t have kept the fish even during the regular season, when anglers can keep one fish per year. That season runs April 24-May 7 and July 1-Sept. 30, but only one fish 45 to 50 inches, or over 75 inches, can be kept. Anglers need a special tag to keep one.
A Department of Natural Resources chart used to estimate weights based on girth and length puts Fronek’s 71-inch fish at about 91 pounds. But the same chart puts the state record fish at just 82 pounds — 12 pounds less than its actual weight.
Still, it was one memorable fishing trip. Fronek’s group also caught 61- and 60-inch sturgeons, as well as several that exceeded 50 inches.
“I’ve never fished for sturgeon before,” Fronek said. “It was pretty cool.”