ELBA, Minn. – Mike Mauer’s 8-pound brown trout caught last month on the Whitewater River isn’t even close to the all-time record in the weekly “Big Brown Trout Contest’’ sponsored by his family’s tavern here in scenic Whitewater Valley.
That particular honor still belongs to Ed “Blitz” Krieger, also of Elba. Krieger’s 13-pound, 14-ounce fish caught in July 1974 was one of several 10-plus pounders entered that summer for a contest that has endured for more than five decades. Trout Unlimited of Minnesota chronicled the contest last year, noting that it only applies to browns caught in the Whitewater system and weighed. The weekly winner gets a 12-pack of beer or pop.
Mauer’s latest entry — caught on a night crawler in the Whitewater’s main branch — was not just a personal best. It was a family best. His catch edged out all contest winners from inside his clan in the modern era. The asterisk “modern era’’ is necessary to cover larger trout possibly caught by his ancestors. The Mauer family has operated its tavern in Elba since 1890. It’s located on the northern outskirts of Whitewater State Park.
In conversation with lunch customers at Mauer Brothers last week, Mike Mauer was showing off a photo of his catch. The trout measured 25.5 inches in length and was 1 pound heavier than his father’s personal best, caught in 1967. Mike’s previous big fish from the Whitewater system was a 3-pound brown trout, also caught in 1967, on a fly line that was tied to his finger.
Walls and shelves at the bar are crammed with all species of wildlife preserved by local taxidermists. The mounts include wild turkeys encased in glass, a long row of caped whitetail bucks, a dusty moose head and randomly placed big brown trout.
Mauer pointed out the biggest trout trophies, rattled off the names of the people who caught them and how much each fish weighed — to the ounce. As he waits for his 8-pounder to be mounted by McHugh Taxidermy in Beaver, he’s eyeing the tavern’s interior for the lunker’s final resting place.
His idea is to hang it next to his father’s catch from 1967.