Small angler, big fish: 11-year-old reels in state record for tullibee

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Austin Stoll broke a Minnesota fishing record that was older than he is.

The 11-year-old from Pelican Rapids landed a 5-pound, 13-ounce tullibee in Otter Tail County in March and Tuesday the Department of Natural Resources certified his catch as a new state record.

The fish Austin caught on Sybil Lake was two ounces heavier than the previous record holder, which had been on the books for 13 years.

The DNR complimented Austin and his father for taking all the steps that are needed for a fish to be declared a state record:

  • They had the fish weighed on a certified scale (when they found at a medical clinic).
  • They had two impartial witnesses observe the weighing.
  • They brought the fish to a DNR office and showed it to officials there.
  • They submitted a State Record Fish form stamped by a notary.

Whew.

What's a tullibee?

Walleye and northern pike may be Minnesota's poster fish, but many of them would never reach trophy size if not for the tullibee.

The panfish is a prime source of food for the state's better-known sport fish, including muskies and lake trout. Articles published in the Star Tribune earlier this year and in the Pioneer Press last year both mention that the tullibee is considered somewhat of a "canary in a coal mine."

In the deep, cold lakes where they live, the abundance – or scarcity – of tullibee is a barometer of a lake's health. And while there aren't official numbers, the DNR tells both newspapers that test netting suggests the tullibee is becoming less common.

A record in March?

Every spring, plenty of Minnesota anglers anxiously await the start of walleye season (May 9 this year). But for the select group who go after tullibee, there is no season: they can catch the fish year-round.

The DNR says that's the case with many of the 62 fish species in the state record book.

Many fans of tullibee go after the fish during the winter months, as a 2012 video from Lake Winnibigoshish demonstrates.

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