Fishing Ice Fishing

Wisconsin Ice Fisherman Catches a Northern Pike on Mille Lacs to Tie Minnesota State-Record

“Immediately, I knew it was a very large fish because it peeled out drag and there was no stopping it”
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A Wisconsin ice fisherman holds onto a fat Minnesota state-record pike.

Lila with his catch-and-release record pike. Minnesota DNR

Brad Lila of Hudson, Wisconsin, was ice fishing on the sprawling 132,000-acre Mille Lacs Lake on Jan. 22 when he caught, measured, and released a big northern pike. The Minnesota DNR has certified the fish at 46.25 inches long as a tie for the state-record in the catch-and-release category, the agency announced Monday.

“I set the hook as the line was quickly peeling out,” Lila says. “Immediately, I knew it was a very large fish because it peeled out drag and there was no stopping it. After about 10 minutes of fighting the fish, I knew that it might take more than me to land it.”

Lila yelled for aid to a pair of nearby ice anglers, who then came to help him. Lila struggled to fight the fish to the ice opening, but the pike was big, tough, and ice slush in the hole made landing the northern difficult. It’s all shown in the YouTube video above.

“Every time she would get near, a few inches of slush would come up and we couldn’t see down the hole,” Lila said. “An additional challenge was that my braided line would groove the bottom of the ice and when my knot connecting the fluorocarbon leader would meet the ice bottom, it would get stuck. I’d have to put my rod down into the hole to free up my line and then my line guides would freeze.”

A half-hour later Lila got his hands on the fish. He cut himself in the process, but as one of his buddies joked, the fish was “worth it” and his hand would heal. After cutting the line, Lila hauled the pike through the hole, made some quick measurements of the fish (46.25 inches long with a 23.66-inch girth) while the camera was running, and released the fish. DNR officials said the pike was likely a female fish laden with eggs before spawning.

Minnesota state-record pike.
Lila gets a hand on the pike; measuring the pike before release. Brad Lila, via YouTube

“It was so satisfying seeing her swim away,” Lila said. “I am so very appreciative of the state of Minnesota for supporting a catch and release [record fish] program. It’s great to know that she’s out there passing along those incredible genes and that someone else may have a chance of landing her someday.” 

Lila’s pike tied for the other largest catch-and-release pike by open-water angler Brecken Kobylecky of Geneva, Illinois. His 46.25-inch pike was caught and released on June 19, 2021 from Basswood Lake near the Ontario border.

The heaviest Minnesota pike in the program, which weighed 45.75 pounds, also came from Basswood Lake. The IGFA world-record northern pike weighed 55 pounds, 1ounce and was caught in 1986 in Germany.