When James Yerheart of Brownsdale, Minnesota went out fishing on the Mississippi River earlier this month, the last thing he expected was to capture a potential state record. Instead, the 34-year-old truck technician planned on having a good time with his fishing buddies and to maybe catch some nice-sized walleye. However, all that changed when Yerheart hooked a monster sturgeon estimated to weigh over 100 pounds.
“It just looked like a big seal swimming next to the boat. Literally that’s what it looked like,” Yerheart told WCCO.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Yerheart was fishing with his uncle Jim Bennett and friend Elias Mathias on a 14-foot boat just north of Winona. Expecting nothing more than a few small walleye and the occasional pike, the angler was using a three-inch Mister Twister green jig on a 10-pound test line. When it came to gear, Yerheart was woefully underprepared for the massive sturgeon.
“The drag was zinging like you wouldn’t believe,” he recalled. “I had 150 yards on the reel, but I swear I got down to my last 20 yards.”
The anglers had no choice but to follow the sturgeon downstream and hope that Yerheart’s line would hold. It took nearly an hour for the fish to slow down, but at that point the anglers knew that the fish was on the ropes. Despite that, Yerheart said he had had difficulty trying to reel the sturgeon in from the boat and wanted to avoid pulling it in by hand due to the risk of the line breaking. The anglers eventually settled on a beach and methodically pulled the fish in from there.
“It took all three of us, everything we had, to get it out of the water,” Mathias said.
They measured the fish at 70 inches long and 27.5 inches around. At that size, the fish was estimated to weigh anywhere between 85 to 125 pounds—rivaling the current state record of 94 pounds and four ounces. By size alone, Yerheart’s fish beat the state record by an inch in girth. Yet the anglers will never know if the sturgeon broke the record since they released the massive fish shortly after it was landed. Yerheart’s sturgeon is believed to be one of several that may have overtaken the current record, but like his, those fish have also been caught and released without an official weigh-in.
In the end, Yerheart remembers the trip fondly as a fish tale for the ages. He says he did not sleep much that night, but he did not know if that was due to excitement, or back pain from his hour-long fight with the sturgeon.
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