Big Fish

 This was no perch!

This was no perch!

There’s nothing like a good fish story to start things off in the new year.

I joined the crew from Federated Church in Fergus Falls for a fellowship fishing expedition to Otter Tail Lake. Meister Guide Service provided us with two warm fish houses on the ice, which was plenty thick thanks to recent low temperatures.

I shared a fish house with three others, including Pastor Doug, who, truth be told, was not the most experienced angler. He and his son Jonathon had brand-new Fleet Farm ice fishing rods, so I helped explain setting depth, tying on a jig and impaling a minnow. Let the fishing begin!

Ten minutes or so passed before Doug saw his bobber slip under, pop up, slip under again – typical perch bite, I figured. After 15 seconds of that, the hook was set – and gosh, the fight was on!

This was no perch, Schara! Line poured from the reel time and time again, the small rod bent into an upside down U. The fish was obviously huge, stubbornly clinging to the bottom, and “monster walleye” was my initial thought. Our host, guide Justin Lightfoot, stopped to check how we were doing. It didn’t take 10 seconds: “It’s a sturgeon,” he said, and took my place by the hole as the “fish landing assistant.”

Another 20 minutes of tired arms, thoughts of breaking line or rod, and help from Justin’s knowledgeable reach below the ice, resulted in landing the fish – a 56-inch sturgeon estimated to weigh around 50 pounds!

I asked Ross Hagemeister, owner of Meister Guide Service, about it. “Justin’s worked for me for about 10 years now and has done a very nice job.  I’m glad that he walked into the fish house when the guys had the sturgeon on because he’s an expert at pulling them out of fish holes – he’s done it a bunch of times.  Sturgeon have been an exciting addition to the the species list on Ottertail Lake and catching one is rare, so it falls into the ‘fish of a life time’ category.”

A few photos and the fish went back in, tired but no worse for wear. Congrats Doug and thanks Meister Guide Service!

Scott Kiemle