DNR Confirms New State Record Sturgeon Caught on Rainy River

May 19, 2018 09:30 AM

A Stillwater man has quite a story to tell about a big fish.

"Well my fish story starts at Rainy Lake," Jack Burke said. "I've got a lake place on Rainy Lake and I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I like to fish, my wife likes to fish, so we do a lot of fishing up at Rainy Lake."


Nobody in Minnesota has ever caught a Sturgeon as big as the one Burke reeled in on the Rainy River on Friday, May 4, 2018. The fish measured 73 inches long. The DNR just confirmed it's a new state record. The old record was 70 inches. 

RELATED: Shakopee Man Matches Own Catch-and-Release Length Record with 49-Inch Flathead Catfish

Here's how Burke describes the 45-minute battle to catch the record-breaking fish.

"I knew it was a big fish the whole time. And it was really hard to get in the boat and then once we had it at 73 inches, I was pretty comfortable this could be it," he said.

The Sturgeon measured 30 inches around its belly. It's estimated it weighs 105-pounds. They used stiff, Musky rods and gobs of nightcrawlers on a hook as bait.

RELATED: DNR Seeing Surge in Record Fish Submissions

Jack caught it during an early spring catch-and-release season for Sturgeon on the Rainy River, which is on the Canadian border. It wasn't their only big fish.

"It was a total thrill for me to get invited to go Sturgeon fishing and actually end up catching Sturgeon," Burke said. "We caught 20 in our three days; four of them were over 60 inches long, eight of them were over 50 inches long. So it was just a thrill."

Click here to learn more about catching Sturgeon in Minnesota.  

Here is Jack Burke's big fish story, in his own words:

The fish measured out at 73 inches. The previous state record was 70 inches. It took 45 minutes to land the fish using a 7-foot musky rod and 80-pound test line.

We measured the girth of the fish and found it was 30 inches around. Graphical tables published by the state indicate a fish measuring 73x30 would weigh 105 pounds.

I fished with my Rainy Lake neighbor, Mike Orgas. He had all of the equipment and knew exactly where to fish. We set up our location at the confluence of the Little Fork and Rainy River. The water was the color of chocolate milk due to the spring runoff.  The stained water had no effect on the fishing, as Sturgeon are bottom feeders, using their sense of smell and touch to find the bait. We used a gob of nightcrawlers held to the bottom with a 3-ounce weight.

We also used a specialty hook, called a circle hook. This type of hook is designed for catch and release fishing. When a fish bites he is hooked in the corner of his mouth every time; there are no gut hooks using this method.  Thus we are able to catch, photograph and release each of our sturgeon.

Rainy River shares the border with Canada, which creates a unique sturgeon catch and release fishing season from April 24 through May 7. Each day there were about 25 other boats there to share the experience. We met one man from Oklahoma who explained he participates every year at this time. He camped at the boat landing and was on the water with us each morning at 6 a.m. On our first day, we watched him catch 13 fish, while we caught three. He was a real expert.

We caught the 73-incher at around lunchtime on day three. We were scheduled to fish another six or so hours, but for some reason, neither of us felt like fishing any longer. How could we improve on what we just experienced? The wind picked up to 40 miles an hour, so that was enough to push us off the river and to declare an end to the day.

I have a friend in International Falls whose father works for the DNR. They insisted that I register the fish, and they met me in town with the application papers. I filled them out and they offered to hand deliver them to the DNR office in St. Paul on Monday morning.
This was an exciting fishing trip and a day I will never forget.
Thinking about my next time on the water, 
Jack Burke
Sturgeon State Record Holder


Kevin Doran

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