Every fisherman knows the horror of losing a trophy fish to a broken line or a poor netting job, but not as many come across a fish so massive it can’t fit through an ice hole — let alone four holes.
Jordan angler and new state record-holder Darren Troseth got creative last week when facing that situation with a 120-pound sturgeon on the end of his line.
Troseth and his friend John Kimble were fishing the St. Croix River Feb. 9 for three hours without a single reading on their SONAR when Troseth got the first bite of the night.
“We decided to try a spot away from anybody,” Troseth said in a video documenting the catch. “We’re the only [fish] house within probably half a mile of here.”
Troseth and Kimble have been fishing together regularly for about 15 years. When Troseth isn’t working as an engineering technician at Integer in Chaska, he operates a guide service, Three Rivers Fishing Adventures. Troseth also runs a Youtube channel, DTroFishOn, where his 11-minute video documenting the record-sturgeon catch has more than 70,000 views.
Kimble, a Prior Lake resident, is a manager at Saint-Bogain Corporation in Shakopee. In the summer, the two go out in Kimble’s boat to catch catfish several times a week. By September each year, they’ll have pivoted to fishing for sturgeon.
Kimble said one of the joys of sturgeon fishing is that it is one of the most humane fish to catch and release.
“The way those fish eat, you never see a hook swallowed,” Kimble said. “I’ve never seen a sturgeon with the hook actually swallowed. In all the years I’ve been fishing for them, the hook ends up in that mouth cartilage somewhere, where it’s easy to get out.”
“It’s a perfect catch-and-release fish,” Troseth said.
It appears Kimble may be something of a good luck charm for fishermen, since he was present when Troseth previously caught a state-record sturgeon measuring 67.5 inches. Another man caught a state-record river carpsucker while fishing with Kimble in his boat.
“I’ve been the bridesmaid on three state records,” Kimble joked. But the third record, Troseth’s 78-inch sturgeon, is the biggest so far.
The first indication Troseth had a larger-than-usual fish on his line was when a burst of bubbles came up not only through the hole he was fishing in, but also from two adjacent ice holes in the shack.
“It’s gonna be a pain to get out of that hole,” Kimble said, still unaware of the fish’s gearth.
Troseth carefully reeled the fish for more than 10 minutes before the guys got their first glimpse of the massive sturgeon — and once they did, they were shocked.
“Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? Oh my gosh,” Troseth said.
“We are not getting that up that hole,” Kimble said from behind the camera.
To paraphrase “Jaws,” they were gonna to need a bigger hole.
Troseth said the average sturgeon they catch is about 30 inches long and weighs about 10 pounds. Those fish, Kimble said, typically take up to five minutes to reel in. By the time Troseth saw the record-breaking sturgeon on Saturday night, he still had more than an hour of reeling to do. The hole he was fishing out of had already been drilled twice, making it larger than usual. A nearby hole had been drilled three times. The men ultimately decided to drill another hole in between to bridge the two holes.
The decision to expand the hole Torseth was fishing out of was not taken lightly. The drilling that followed would be one of the most nerve-racking moments of the night, as the auger blade twisted mere inches from Troseth’s fishing line.
“We were holding the fishing line up against the wall, trying to make sure the angle stays tight on that wall of ice while we were drilling the hole right here,” Kimble said. “If you even touch the line with the auger it could’ve snapped it, and (the fish) could’ve changed directions at any time, so I was watching that line angle like a hawk and drilling at the same time.”
Fortunately, the fish was moving slow enough that they were able to adjust in time and keep the line clear. But even with the sturgeon’s cooperation, the drilling was unsuccessful — Troseth’s auger started acting up and wasn’t able to keep running. So there the two fishermen sat: with 24 inches of ice separating them from a record sturgeon and no way to break through it.
Then Troseth and Kimble decided to call for backup. Kimble put out a call to the Minnesota sturgeon fishers Facebook group, asking if any nearby anglers could bring an auger to their fish house. Within five minutes, a nearby fisherman arrived with a 10-inch auger. At this point, Troseth had the fish hooked for nearly an hour.
After carefully widening the hole even more, Troseth and Kimble reached shoulder-deep into the hole, grabbed the sturgeon by its mouth and muscled the massive fish to the surface.
“That thing is bigger than you!” said the visiting fisherman.
Troseth and Kimble worked quickly to measure and photograph the fish, suspecting Troseth may have a state record on his hands. The sturgeon measured 78 inches long and 29.5 inches in circumference. After investigating the photos and calling witnesses, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources informed Troseth on Feb. 14 that he is the new state record-holder for catch-and-release lake sturgeon. The previous record, held by Jack Burke of Stillwater, measured 73 inches and was caught on the Rainy River last May.
After spending a couple minutes on the surface to be measured and photographed, the sturgeon was released back down the hole with what we can only assume is an equally memorable story to tell.
“I might be done ice fishing,” joked Troseth, short of breath, after releasing the fish. “Honestly, I don’t know if I want to experience that again. That was awesome, but man.”