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Mammoth Northland lake trout might set a world record

Rob Scott of Crane Lake holds the lake trout he caught Feb. 8. It was 45 inches long with a 32-inch girth and unofficially weighed 52 pounds, 3 ounces on a hand-held scale. Scott said he was fishing on Lac La Croix northeast of Crane Lake when he caught the fish. (Rob Scott photo)

By Sam Cook

Rob Scott saw the flag on his tip-up spring up. He assumed a lake trout had taken his dead shiner minnow and was swimming away with it.

Scott, of Crane Lake, took his time getting to the tip-up. But when he pulled it from his fishing hole on Lac La Croix, he was stunned.

“All I saw was the knot,” he said.

The fish had taken all of his line. Scott, 65, quickly managed to retrieve 6 or 8 feet of his 20-pound-test monofilament line. What ensued was an hourlong battle with an immense lake trout. The fish was 45 inches long, 32 inches in girth and unofficially weighed 52 pounds, 3 ounces on a hand-held digital scale, Scott said.

If the fish tops 40 pounds when officially weighed, it could be an ice-fishing world record, according to the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward. But the Hall of Fame will not recognize fish that have been weighed on a hand-held scale, said Emmett Brown, executive director.

Scott said he was fishing alone on Lac La Croix on Feb. 8 when he caught the fish. Lac La Croix is a large lake that lies on the Minnesota-Ontario border several miles northeast of Crane Lake.

“It was a monster,” said Jim Janssen of Voyagaire Lodge and Houseboats in Crane Lake. “I was holding the scale when we weighed it. It was hard to hold.”

He first saw the fish in Scott’s shop shortly after Scott returned from fishing.

“I thought, ‘Holy God, that thing is grotesque,’ ” Janssen said.

Scott, who had been fishing on the Ontario side of the lake, plans to have it mounted.

Bill Congdon of Crane Lake has fished for lake trout in the same area where Scott caught his fish.

“That’s an unbelievable fish for there,” Congdon said. “Thirty-something would be a huge one. I’ve caught ’em 20. But 52-3?”

Earl Palmquist of International Falls holds the current National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame record for a lake trout caught through the ice and kept. That fish, caught on Clearwater West Lake near Atikokan, Ontario, in 1987, weighed 40 pounds and was 43 inches long.

Duluth’s Bruce Sederberg caught and released a 46-inch lake trout through the ice on Ontario’s White Otter Lake near Atikokan in January 2013. That fish was not weighed. It holds the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame record for a catch-and-release lake trout caught through the ice.

The Ontario record lake trout, caught in open water on Lake Superior in 1952, weighed 62 pounds, 2 ounces. It was 51½ inches long and had a girth of 32.8 inches.

Scott, a veteran lake trout angler who owns Scott’s Peaceful Valley Resort on Crane Lake, was fishing in 55 feet of water when he hooked the big laker. His bait was about a foot off the bottom, he said. It was about 1 p.m., and the temperature was about 7 above zero at International Falls. Scott had ridden by snowmobile to the spot where he was fishing.

The fish stayed down for a long time, he said.

“He was in deep-water mode for the first half-hour,” Scott said. “Once I got him into mid-water depth, he’d start to do more excursions, but I felt comfortable,” he said.

He fought the fish at that depth for another 15 minutes before he brought it into shallower water.

“I thought, ‘I have to have a 100 percent view of this fish,’ ” he said. “I saw the fish swim by. I thought, ‘That’s a pretty solid fish.’”

Scott had caught a couple of other lake trout of about 20 pounds in previous years.

“In the last few minutes, the trout was coming up. I saw that it had shoulders,” Scott said. “It passed (beneath the hole) just like ‘Jaws.’ All I saw was that eye. I said, ‘All bets are off.’ ”

Working alone, bare-handed, he drew the fish near the hole once, twice, three times, waiting for it to come by with its mouth open. When he saw the trout’s mouth open on the third pass, he plunged his arm into the water and used a gaff to hook the fish in the jaw.

“I remember every millisecond of this,” Scott said. “I just pulled, (and he) came of that hole like a cork out of a wine bottle.”

Still alone, Scott said he shouted and did a dance on the ice. Nearby anglers came over to take his photo.

Scott never thought of releasing the fish, he said.

“Nothing in my trout vocabulary had ‘release’ in it,” he said.

Scott said he plans to submit his catch for potential record status.