The fish of a lifetime slammed Andrew Slette’s black, tube-shaped lure at 6:30 a.m., only five casts into a designated muskie outing on Otter Tail County’s Pelican Lake.
“He was right on top of structure, 6 or 7 feet deep,” said Slette, a 20-year-old member of the Fargo-Moorhead chapter of Muskies Inc. “I’ll probably never top it.’’
Slette’s 57-inch monster — 3 inches shy of 5 feet — was confirmed today as a state record in the DNR’s new recognition program for certain fish that are caught and released. The catch-and-release records for muskie, flathead catfish and sturgeon are based solely on length and rely on photographic evidence, plus a witness account.
Slette, an electrician who lives in Hawley, said his recent catch outmeasured the 54-incher he caught last year, also on Pelican.
He said he’s hopelessly addicted to muskie fishing and all of its trappings of expensive equipment. The $35 lure he used to catch his record-setter was on the “cheap side” of what he normally spends, he said.
“I was 8 years old when I caught my first muskie on Lake of the Woods,” he said. “There’s a fever to it, I guess.”
The topwater bait he was casting on June 24 was equipped with a tiny propeller that spins when pulled through water. The fish ambushed it one-quarter of the way into the retrieve, and Slette experienced a two-minute frenzy.
He said the fish dived under the boat a couple of times and then circled it, forcing him to scurry to every corner of the vessel before the fish swam into a net manned by friend Josh Karch. The heavy-duty fishing line Slette used was 80-pound test.
“It was a stressful minute or two,” Slette said.
Pelican Lake is an example of a successful muskie stocking initiative by the DNR, aided by Muskies Inc., Slette said. He’s familiar with strident, local opposition from lakeshore property owners and walleye anglers who allege that muskies damage walleye and panfish populations.
But Slette agrees with DNR scientists who say muskies coexist benignly with other sport fish, and he has actively supported the agency’s attempt to stock the toothy predator in additional waters.
“Pelican is one of the best walleye lakes in the area, and the muskies aren’t hurting it any,” Slette said.
The traditional state record muskie, verified by a certified scale, weighed 54 pounds and was caught in 1957 on Lake Winnibigoshish. DNR records say the 1957 muskie was 56 inches long with a girth just shy of 28 inches.
Slette said he didn’t take a precise girth measurement of his fish.