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Man thinks Lake Sallie muskie is a record-breaker, but state shutdown muddies the waters

John Gergen caught this 57-inch muskie in Lake Sallie July 1. The fish, as measured by him, is one inch longer than the Minnesota state record muskie but several pounds lighter.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- A possible Minnesota state record muskie was caught in Lake Sallie last weekend, but the 54-year-old record may still remain intact because of the government shutdown.

John Gergen, of Phoenix, Ariz., whose family owns a cabin on Lake Sallie, landed the 57-inch monster off the point in the lake on the evening of July 1, using a bulldog lure.

The length of the muskie was measured by him at one inch longer than the state record, but weighed 51 or 52 pounds, two or three pounds lighter than the record.

"I've caught a bunch of muskies," Gergen said. "I just haven't caught one that big.

"I was shocked that it was a record after I caught it. I always thought the state record was 59 inches, and when someone said 56 (inches), it kind of shocked me. I think that's really awesome."

The fish was brought to Leonard's Taxidermy in Detroit Lakes for mounting. According to owner Leonard Sunram, the fish measured 55 inches, but it was frozen and in a curled position.

"It could be (57 inches)," Sunram said. "That's no exaggeration. When you freeze them, they change."

Sunram said this is the largest muskie he's ever mounted, so much so, he has to fabricate a form for the fish himself.

"I searched all the companies in the United States, and I could not find a form big enough for that muskie," he said.

The real preserved skin of the fish is mounted on the form, then any imperfections are fixed and the fish is then painted, Sunram said. The taxidermy process takes several days of work to finish.

According to Detroit Lakes muskie guide Jerry Sondag, the fish must be measured with a certified International Game Fish Association (IGFA) measuring board and released back into the lake to get a record length. To get a state record weight, the fish must be weighed on a certified scale with multiple witnesses and be dissected by a biologist, Sondag said. He said he has his doubts this fish will ever be certified as a state record because of the circumstances.

Being the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is closed due to the state government shutdown, Gergen was told the fish won't be put in the record books. But he turned to a group in Wisconsin that is still attempting to get the muskie certified and put in the state record books.

Gergen said he won't be disappointed if it doesn't get added to the books, however.

"It's just bad timing. It's going up on a bunch of big-time muskie (web)sites, so I'm pretty excited about that," he said.

After about six hours of trying to revive the muskie, it died and Gergen decided to have it mounted at Leonard's Taxidermy.

The 22 year-old Gergen said he's been muskie fishing all his life and caught a 55½-inch fish four years ago on Lake Sallie. This will be his fourth mounted muskie.