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Minnesota DNR certifies new catch-and-release state record muskie

Lake Vermilion catch has special meaning for angler at his family cabin
An angler on Lake Vermilion caught and released Minnesota’s new state record muskellunge, a 57 1/4 inch fish that he called a “true giant.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources certified the state catch-and-release record fish on Oct. 11. The 57 1/4 inch fish had a 25 1/2 inch girth with an estimated weight of about 47 pounds. The previous record was a 56 7/8 inch fish caught on Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County in 2016.

The record catch took on special meaning for new record-holder Corey Kitzmann of Davenport, Iowa. While alone on Aug. 6 at his family cabin on Lake Vermilion, Kitzmann was sitting at the table tying a homemade bucktail lure. Then he received a phone call relaying bad news – one of his best friends had passed away from a medical condition at age 40.

With nobody around to grieve with, Kitzmann went fishing.

“I worked my way through my favorite milk run of spots with my newly tied bucktail, thinking about all the ways my buddy had impacted my life and the memories we had shared together,” Kitzmann said. “I’m not sure there is a better place in the entire world to reflect on life than in a boat on Lake Vermilion.”

After a couple hours with no action, he pulled up to one of his favorite spots that had been hot earlier in the week, fishing with his bucktail and 80-pound line.

“When I set the hook, I knew immediately that I had a nice fish on. It wasn’t until the fish made its way to the side of the boat that I realized I had a true giant,” he said.

The fish made a couple of trips around the boat, under the trolling motor, and even gave a jump or two. Kitzmann grabbed his net and managed to make a successful scoop to net the fish and haul it into the boat.

A nearby boater and his family had been watching the fight unfold and Kitzmann waved his arms asking for help. A man pulled up, jumped in his boat and was able to take photos and assist with the release.

After a few photos, Kitzmann got the fish back in the water, supported its belly and watched the fish swim out of sight. He described what followed as two hours of floating aimlessly across the lake making phone calls to family and friends, including his dad who had gotten him into muskie fishing when he was 8 years old.

“As the phone calls winded down I couldn’t help but think that one of my best friends, Brian Cronkleton, was looking down on me that day – Aug. 6, 2019, is a day that I’ll certainly never forget,” Kitzmann said.

The DNR announces new state records in news releases, on social media and on the DNR website. Find current records and guidelines for each type of state record at mndnr.gov/recordfish.