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Wisconsin man ties Minnesota catch-and-release northern pike record

The big pike was caught Jan. 22 on Mille Lacs Lake.

Minnesota catch and release pike record
Brad Lila, of Hudson, Wis., caught and released this 46.25-inch northern pike Jan. 22 while fishing on Mille Lacs Lake. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this week verified the fish as tied for the state catch-and-release record for pike.
Contributed / Brad Lila

ST. PAUL — A Wisconsin angler caught a 46.25-inch northern pike on Mille Lacs Lake that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has certified as a tie with the current catch-and-release state record.

Brad Lila, of Hudson, Wisconsin, caught and released the fish Jan. 22.

“I set the hook as the line was quickly peeling out,” Lila said in a statement on the catch released by the DNR Monday. “I knew it was a very large fish because it peeled out drag and there was no stopping it. After about 10 minutes of fighting the fish, I knew that it might take more than me to land it.”

Lila said he hollered and waved for help and two nearby anglers came to his aid. Lila tried to get the fish to turn its head to come up the hole, but the fish was large and slush under the ice complicated the endeavor.

“Every time she would get near, a few inches of slush would come up and we couldn’t see down the hole,” Lila said. “An additional challenge was that my braided line would groove the bottom of the ice and when my knot connecting the fluorocarbon leader would meet the ice bottom, it would get stuck. I’d have to put my rod down into the hole to free up my line and then my line guides would freeze.”

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After about 30 minutes, Lila was able to get the fish through the ice and get quick measurements before releasing it back into the water. The fish was most likely a female that was carrying eggs before spawning.

“It was so satisfying seeing her swim away,” Lila said. “I am so very appreciative of the state of Minnesota for supporting a catch-and-release (record fish) program. It’s great to know that she’s out there passing along those incredible genes and that someone else may have a chance of landing her someday.”

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To be eligible for a catch-and-release state record, the fish must be photographed alongside a ruler or measuring stick that clearly shows the length and must have at least one witness in addition to the angler who caught it.

The big pike exactly tied the 46.25-inch fish caught and released by Brecken Kobylecky, of Geneva, Illinois, on June 21, 2021, on Basswood Lake. The state’s current northern pike record for a kept fish is 45 pounds, 12 ounces, also caught on Basswood Lake, way back in 1929.

You can find current records and guidelines for each type of state record, and application forms, at mndnr.gov/recordfish .

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