Like a sturgeon? You're more likely to find one in Minnesota these days


The latest headcount shows one of the state's biggest sport fish is on the rebound in northern Minnesota.

The Department of Natural Resources studied lake sturgeon in the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods and estimates their population is more than five times its 1989 level.

The DNR tallied only those lake sturgeon measuring 40 inches or longer. Its 2014 estimate of 92,000 compares to just 17,000 in 1989. A decade ago the number was 59,000.

Experts say overfishing and water pollution were the biggest factors behind a decline that saw the number of lake sturgeon caught by Minnesota anglers drop 99.4 percent from its peak in the 1890's, the DNR says.

The agency says dams, farming practices, and silt have reduced lake sturgeon habitat since the fish's heyday.

Clean water regulations were introduced in the 1960's and the state has been carefully managing the harvest of lake sturgeon, a species the DNR describes as long-lived, slow-growing, and late-maturing.

That slow growth over their long life can add up to a big fish, though.

Eden Prairie angler Andy Fronek told the Star Tribune of his encounter with a whopping lake sturgeon on the Rainy River last spring.

Fronek said the fish measured 5 feet 11 inches with a 29-inch girth. He caught it during catch-and-release season and was not able to weigh it, but he told the newspaper it must have been 100 pounds. Fronek says it took him more than half an hour to wrestle the fish into his boat.

This 2012 video features a young angler reeling in a Rainy River sturgeon that measured more than 62 inches.

Minnesota's record for a lake sturgeon is a 94-pounder caught on the Kettle River in 1994.

But in heralding the fish's comeback on the border waters of the north, a DNR fisheries manager says one day in the not-too-distant future 100-pound lake sturgeon will be a realistic expectation for Minnesota anglers.

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