Huge Vermilion Muskie Release

Hastings, Minn. - If you want to catch big muskies, be prepared for the discomforts you'll likely encounter in the process.

Long-time muskie anglers Randy Porubcan and Gene Crowder took on snow, wind, and temperatures in the mid-20-degree range on Oct. 24, but for their efforts they were rewarded with a 59-inch Lake Vermilion muskie that may have - had it not been released - challenged the state record. The fish's girth was 29 inches. The state record is a 54-pounder that came from Lake Winnibigoshish.

“I've never kept a (muskie), and neither has Randy,” Crowder said earlier this week.

It wasn't for lack of knowing that the big muskellunge may have been record material.

“After the fish was back in the water, Randy said, ‘You know, I think we may have probably released a state record.' ”

Crowder and Porubcan were part of a crew of muskie fanatics gathered at Vermilion Dam Lodge last weekend for the annual Larry Ramsell Muskie Outing. Besides fishing, those partaking in the event also gain and share new knowledge about the sport.

Crowder, 70, already had knowledge about Vermilion; he's been fishing the lake for more than a decade. Porubcan, 64, began fishing Vermilion with Crowder just last year; the two met while muskie fishing on Eagle Lake in Ontario several years ago.

It was about 1 p.m. when the fish took the bait, according to Crowder. The duo was fishing near Hinsdale Island in the Smarts Bay area. “The wind was blowing right down the channel we were in,” he said. “Spray was freezing on my glasses.”

Crowder and Porubcan were trolling, Crowder with a 14-inch firetiger-colored Jake that trailed about 60 feet behind the boat. Crowder said he'd been “ticking bottom” in about 12 feet of water, and they were passing through about 20 feet of water, approaching an underwater hump that rose to around 10 feet. He slowed the motor as the depth decreased, causing the somewhat buoyant lure to rise in the water column.

“That's when she hit,” Crowder said. He was the first to battle the fish when he pulled the rod out of its holder.

But strong winds were pushing his boat toward the rocks - the wind was whipping 20 to 30 mph - so he handed the outfit to Porubcan, and motored the boat out of danger.

Porubcan kept reeling, and about 10 yards from the boat the fish surfaced, giving the men their first look at its immense size.

While Porubcan pulled the fish to the boat, Crowder readied the net. “It took three tries” to net the fish, he said.

While Crowder held the fish, Porubcan cut the barbs on the lure, secured in the fish's mouth. It took both anglers to hoist the fish into the boat, during which time, Crowder said, Porubcan tumbled back onto his tackle box.

They were able to measure the fish's length, then use a string to mark and later measure its girth. The fish was nursed in the water for about 5 minutes before it regained its strength and swam away, Crowder said.

“All the work (hook removal, etc.) was done in the water,” he said. “Then we took her out for a couple pictures.”

The cold weather benefitted the fish, Crowder said. “If it had been summer, she'd have only made it (survived) if everything was done in the water.”

While both anglers have fished solo for muskies, Crowder said it's a good thing they tag-teamed for this catch. He once caught a 52-inch muskie by himself in Ontario, and called the resulting chaos in the boat a “disco.”

The Vermilion fish's size, coupled with the day's weather, made a team effort necessary.

“If either one of us would've gotten this fish ourself, it wouldn't have turned out so well,” Crowder said.

Several “muskie calculators” exist. The formulas can be used to determine a fish's weight, based only on length, or on length and girth.

“(They're) pretty well accepted” as accurate, according to Ed Tausk, owner of Vermilion Dam Lodge. “They'll usually get you within ounces.”

For example, according to OutdoorsFIRST.com, the fish would've weighed about 62 pounds. (To get that estimate, multiply girth times girth times length, divided by 800.)

Tausk said the fish might have been a bit longer (the tail wasn't pinched in measuring it), and it's difficult to know from the photo if the girth is accurate because there's no measuring tape around the fish (Porubcan held the fish against his body to protect it).

Crowder, a retired Northwest Airlines worker, now works as a fishing associate for Gander Mountain in Woodbury. Porubcan operates a health supplement company in Victoria.

Crowder said after he and Porubcan landed the 59-incher, they fished another five hours. Then they went out the next day for a half-day of fishing. Earlier this week, Crowder was prepping for another trip to Vermilion.

In nearly two decades of muskie fishing, Crowder said he's accumulated about 200 muskie lures. “Randy probably has double that amount,” he said.

Tausk said he found the two metro anglers at their cabin when they returned from catching the 59-incher.

“They were having a scotch; they seemed a little shaken,” he said.