WAYZATA — Some have claimed to have seen Sasquatch. Some have claimed to have seen the Loch Ness Monster.
In Lake Minnetonka, a giant fish is staking a claim as the next legendary creature. Around the lake community, the fish is known as “Lou.”
Mark Gjengdahl is among those who believe they’ve seen Lou. Gjengdahl, a spear fisherman primarily for carp, usually snorkels in the water when fishing. He did the same on May 13.
Alone in the water, about 12 feet from the shore in Gray’s Bay near the Gray’s Bay Dam, a mounted GoPro video camera on Gjengdahl’s forehead became evidence.
This was his first year using a video camera while fishing underwater — just in time to run into the legendary fish.
“I was kind of freaked out,” Gjengdahl said.
At first glance, he didn’t recognize the type of fish swimming right in front of him. But the fish itself was hard to miss.
According to Gjengdahl, the fish looked to be five feet long and about 80 pounds. After seeing the massive fish, he classified it as a sturgeon. Before the sighting, Gjengdahl doubted that sturgeon swam in the lake. Not anymore.
“I don’t put any limits to what I see underwater,” he said. “There is clear evidence that it was a sturgeon.”
Daniel Hanson met Gjengdahl as they were fishing in Gray’s Bay. Hanson has loved fishing, particularly bass fishing, for most of his 46 years of life. However, his own encounter with Lou put a common bass’ size in perspective.
“I have never seen anything like that in Minnetonka before,” Hanson said.
For some in the lake community, however, one question up for debate is related to the name of the famed fish. Phil Weltin of Metro Lakes Marina and Rentals thought it went by a different name than Lou.
“I thought its name was Steve,” he said.
Mitch Schneider lives on the Minnehaha Creek in Minnetonka. Years ago, Schneider said he read an article about the fish, but figured it was an urban legend.
However, for the life-long fisherman, seeing was believing.
He took a video similar to Gjengdahl’s on May 16, revealing a large fish swimming by the Gray’s Bay Dam in Gray’s Bay. Schneider showed the video to some who thought the large fish was a carp, and like Gjengdahl, the Minnetonka native knew exactly what it was.
“This was 100% a sturgeon,” Schneider said. “There’s no other way.”
The chances of seeing a fish of that size in a Minnesota lake are slim to none. So, with the recent sighting of the Paul Bunyan-like fish, questions arose about the kind of fish it is. One potential type of fish Lou could be is a muskie.
DNR Fishery Specialist Kristan Maccaroni knows that even though large muskies are rare to catch, it is possible.
“A 50-inch muskie is a marker of trophy fishery,” Maccaroni said. “Catching one is in the realm of possibility. It is very attainable.”
Maccaroni said a typical 1-year-old muskie is around 17 inches, and after a year’s worth of growth, it is around the 20-inch mark at age 2. An average adult ranges anywhere from 35-40 inches in length.
DNR Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor Taylor Polomis said the longest fish consistently reported from lakes are pure-strain muskies. Data from a 2006 survey had a 53-inch muskie being the record-holder for length, Polomis said. However, records from the Metro Muskie Tournament show Brent Fox caught a 56-inch muskie in 2015, the longest ever recorded by the tournament.
Another variety of fish with a potential for large size that could be an alias for Lou is carp. In fact, types of fish, like the common carp, are too big to be caught by the DNR.
“[Common carp] are not caught by our gear because they can’t fit or tear themselves free,” Polomis said.
The Minnesota record for common carp, according to the Bowfishing Association of America, was set by Steve Schmidt on May 29, 2017, with a 40.5-inch, 50.16-pound fish.
But in Gray’s Bay, Gjengdahl and Hanson are convinced they didn’t see a muskie or carp.
Nowadays, Gjengdahl still goes down near the Gray’s Bay Dam one or two times a week. He has yet to see Lou again, but there is no doubt in his mind what he saw.
“The mystery is over,” he said. “It’s a sturgeon.”