For two anglers in Minnesota, May 8 2016, happened to be a very special day. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced this week that Cindy Pawlowski (above) of Frazee and Steven DeMars (below) of Stillwater became the first two anglers to catch a record fish in the state’s expanded records program for sturgeon, flathead catfish and muskie.

“Congratulations to our first two record holders in the record program we expanded this year,” said Mike Kurre, who manages the record fish program. “It’s great to see these photos and applications, and know there are still chances for other anglers to catch these enormous fish.”

That’s because both fish were caught and released. Pawlowski caught her record lake sturgeon from the Rainy River in Koochiching County. The massive sturgeon measured 62 7/8 inches long with a 29-inch girth, and was caught on a handful of nightcrawlers. DeMars caught his flathead catfish from the St. Croix River in Washington County. The fish measured 47 inches long with a 30-inch girth, and was caught on a bullhead.

Both fish were released safely, which gave the anglers the right to register their catches under Minnesota’s new expanded catch-and-release records for lake sturgeon, flathead catfish or muskies. Before the rule change, state officials only recognized fish that were kept, but many anglers have long urged the DNR to create an alternative recognizing released fish.

“It’s a crime to kill these fish,” DeMars, who was one of those advocates, told the Star Tribune.

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Estimated at 52 pounds, the flathead caught by DeMars was about 18 pounds lighter than the official state record. Similarly, Pawloski’s sturgeon was about 20 pounds short of the kept record. However, both anglers say they are proud of their catches and of the new program. Officials hope that it will convince more anglers to release their catches and still have a chance to make it into the record books. For those anglers, letting a trophy fish go now has become less of an agonizing choice.

 

Images courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

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