On Aug. 2, Mikhail Pearthree might have caught the largest muskie recorded in the greater Twin Cities metro, and for sure he caught one of the largest ever to swim in Minnesota waters, a monster measuring 54.5 inches.
Yet Mikhail's big fish is perhaps the least interesting thing about him or his Minneapolis family.
Twenty years ago, when Mikhail was just 1 year old, he was housed in a Russian orphanage. He had been born prematurely, weighing only 4 pounds 4 ounces, and had been brought to the orphanage tired, hungry and dirty.
When Craig and his wife, Yvonne Olsen, of Minneapolis got a call saying Mikhail was available for adoption, if they were interested, they jumped at the chance. Three years earlier, they had adopted a baby they named Ben, also from Russia. So of course they would take Mikhail.
"We made long-lasting friendships in Russia during the course of the two adoptions,'' Craig said.
A muskie the size Mikhail caught is probably about 20 years old, give or take.
So it's likely that about the same time Mikhail came to Minnesota, the big fish he caught within sight of the Minneapolis skyline, while paddling his canoe alone on Bde Maka Ska, formerly known as Lake Calhoun, was also just getting its start here.
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Mikhail can tell you where in 2014 he and his dad caught walleyes on Lake of the Woods — or Leech or Winnie.
Or pick another year, any year, and he can recall the number of fish he and his dad caught, and where and when.
His photographic memory is attributable to his passion for fishing, winter or summer, and perhaps also to the fact he is on the autism spectrum, a developmental condition that affects learning, communication and other behaviors.
That said, the behavior at which Mikhail excels is catching fish, and he's a big believer in catch-and-release.
"He was about 10 when he really took an interest in fishing,'' Craig said. "It's only grown from there.''
Primarily a boundary waters fisherman, Craig has had to amp up his angling game to keep up with Mikhail. This includes winter fishing, day and night — and overnight.
"We have a wheelhouse now we use in winter to fish all of Minnesota's major walleye lakes, but before we got it, we slept on cots in a pop-up ice-fishing shelter,'' Craig said. "Mikhail plans our winter fishing season well in advance, just like he does our summer fishing schedule.''
"I like winter fishing because of the rattle wheels and tip-ups and because I get to stay overnight on a lake and fish at night.''
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The high temperature in Minneapolis on Aug. 2, a Monday, was 82, with a low of 62. In early afternoon, when Craig helped Mikhail tote his canoe to Bde Maka Ska, city thermometers hovered near the higher end of that spread.
Mikhail fishes the lake often, and almost exclusively for walleyes. With him, a small handful of regulars also patrol the lake, many deploying electric trolling motors while casting, intending to cover a lot of water in search of bass, northerns or muskies.
"While fishing for walleyes I anchor my canoe and jig,'' Mikhail said. "Then, while moving from spot to spot, I troll a big bucktail. When I'm by myself, to control the canoe better, I sit in the middle. I use Navionics on my phone to determine how deep the water is, and I was surprised it was so deep, 40 or 50 feet, when my rod just bent down. I had the rod between my legs when I was paddling, and it just bent down.''
This was on Mikhail's day off. An Edina high school graduate, he works in that same city at Interlachen Country Club, where his duties include caddying. It's a good fit for an exceptional athlete like Mikhail, who is an all-star soccer player.
Summoning his athleticism, he fought the fish as it spun the canoe. Eight minutes passed before he saw its huge shape just below the surface.
"I was shocked at how big it was,'' Mikhail said.
Thrashing wildly, the muskie wouldn't allow Mikhail to reach into the water to hold it while he attempted to dislodge the lure, which was embedded deeply in the fish's mouth.
Nor could Mikhail fit the fish entirely into his small walleye net.
"I used the net anyway,'' he said. "I got the head and about a quarter of the muskie into it. I wasn't sure if I was going to tip the canoe over or not. I called my dad from the canoe for help but couldn't get him right away because he was at a funeral. Eventually I got all of the fish into the canoe and paddled to shore.''
In Minnesota, only muskies longer than 54 inches can be retained by anglers, a regulation that keeps nearly all of these fish in state lakes and rivers for their lifetimes.
At 54.5 inches, Mikhail's fish was legal to be kept. Which was good, because his efforts to revive the big fish failed.
"I wanted to release it,'' he said.
Instead, it will go on a wall at the family's deer hunting cabin, where Mikhail will be asked countless times in coming years where and how he caught the big muskie.
It will be one of many fish stories he has to tell.