Published March 04, 2012, 12:00 AM

Minnesota state record 'pout is worthy of a smile

Aaron Guthrie of Bemidji tests his skills against the eelpout whenever the opportunity presents itself and the morning of Feb. 24, he was in his fish house on Lake of the Woods near Long Point north of Williams, Minn., when his rattle reel sounded.

By: Pat Miller, Forum Communications

Lake of the Woods, 4:30 a.m. and a hook baited with three fathead minnows could only mean one thing — eelpout fishing.

Aaron Guthrie of Bemidji tests his skills against the eelpout whenever the opportunity presents itself and the morning of Feb. 24, he was in his fish house on Lake of the Woods near Long Point north of Williams, Minn., when his rattle reel sounded.

A few minutes later, Guthrie had the fish wriggling on the floor of his fish house. Later, he would discover that his catch would weigh 19.54 pounds, setting a new state record.

Guthrie and his fishing companions had caught some walleyes and eelpout during last week’s trip to Lake of the Woods. About 3 a.m., they landed an eelpout and at 4:30 a.m., the rattle reel sounded again.

When Guthrie set the hook, the resistance told him that a pout was on the other end.

“And I knew it had some shoulders,” he added.

Despite the weight, Guthrie, was able to raise the fish from its haunt 34 feet below the ice with help from his uncle, Rollie Jones of Osseo, Minn.

“I tried about 10 times to get its head up the 10-inch hole,” Guthrie said. “When I finally got the fish’s head through the hole, Rollie put his thumb into the mouth to lip it and the eelpout immediately clamped onto it. And Rollie was able to pull the fish out.”

Guthrie had caught large eelpout before, but this one was special.

“It wouldn’t fit in our bucket or in my live-well sock so I had to put it outside,” Guthrie said. “On our little hand scale, the fish weighed 19 pounds but it was alive and wiggling so much it was hard to get an accurate weight.”

A few hours later, Guthrie texted a friend and recounted the catch and the eelpout’s weight. His friend did a bit of research and found out that the state record fish was 19.3 pounds and was caught on Lake of the Woods in 2001.

“When I learned that, the wheels started turning in my head,” Guthrie said. “So we packed camp, thawed the fish and headed for the DNR Fisheries office in Baudette.”

DNR assistant area fisheries supervisor Dennis Topp had left the office when he got a call about the fish. He went online and printed off a state record fish application form and then headed for Lake of the Woods Foods, where the fish was being weighed on a certified scale.

The eelpout was longer than the tub, Topp said, and its head was draped over one end of the tub and the tail over the other.

“It’s a gorgeous fish,” Topp said.

The eelpout was 36 inches long with a 24-inch girth and weighed 19.54 pounds on the scale. Guthrie has submitted the necessary paperwork to have the fish officially recognized as the state record. Because the eelpout was weighed on a certified scale, he has at least two witnesses and DNR officials verified the fish, the process is only a formality.

Guthrie says he plans to have the eelpout mounted.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “Catching a record fish is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

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