The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has returned a 52-inch muskie that it had previously confiscated from the ice angler who caught the fish in January at Lake Minnetonka.
The action brought an end to a big Minnesota muskie mix-up.
The confusion about the fish started because the official 2007 DNR fishing regulations stated that muskie season ended February 24. However, the agency changed the season dates–after the rulebook was printed–and the season actually ended December 15.
The DNR tracked down angler Tom James and his fish after photos of the massive muskie appeared on Internet fishing forums. A conservation officer issued James a written warning, but no fine. In addition, James’ fish was confiscated.
Credit goes to DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten, who recognized that James did not purposely violate the state’s fishing regulations, and that perhaps the agency had not done everything it could to communicate the midseason regulation change.
“We put Minnesota anglers…in a position where they were going to fail,” Holsten said. “It was our failure, not his.”
Chris Niskanen, the fine outdoors scribe for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, reported that after catching the fish, James had actually referred to the printed regulations before deciding to keep it.
James told the reporter that he has caught and released about 20 muskies in his lifetime, including a 49.5-incher, and he vowed never to keep one unless it exceeded 50 inches. He caught his fish-of-a-lifetime on a tip-up rig and landed it by hand without the aid of a rod and reel.
So, in late February, the happy Mound, Minn. angler threw a homecoming party for his 52-incher, and he and a few fishing buddies hoisted some brews together–and doubtlessly toasted the wise DNR commish for doing the right thing.
And hell yes, he’s going to have it mounted and displayed at his home.