On January 22, an angler named Brad Lila hooked into a giant northern pike while ice fishing on central Minnesota’s Millie Lacs Lake. When he finally brought the behemoth through the ice, it taped out at an impressive 46.25 inches with a 23-inch girth. Earlier this week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) certified Lila’s catch as a tie for the overall catch-and-release state record.
“I set the hook as the line was quickly peeling out,” Lila later told MDNR officials. “Immediately, I knew it was a very large fish because it peeled out drag and there was no stopping it. After about 10 minutes of fighting the fish, I knew that it might take more than me to land it.”
That’s when Lila decided to seek help. He waved his arms and began to holler. Eventually, two nearby anglers came to his aid, the MDNR stated in a recent press release. Because the pike was so big, and so much slush had accumulated beneath the hard ice, Lila and his fellow anglers struggled to get the fish’s head turned toward the hole.
“Every time she would get near, a few inches of slush would come up, and we couldn’t see down the hole,” Lila said. “An additional challenge was that my braided line would groove the bottom of the ice and when my knot connecting the fluorocarbon leader would meet the ice bottom, it would get stuck. I’d have to put my rod down into the hole to free up my line and then my line guides would freeze.”
This went on for a solid 30 minutes, Lila said, before he managed to get the fish out of the ice and onto a measuring board. He recorded the pike’s length, posed for a photo, and released it back into the frigid waters of Milie Lacs Lake. According to MDNR, the pike was probably a female en route to spawn.
“It was so satisfying seeing her swim away,” Lila said. “I am very appreciative of the state of Minnesota for supporting a catch-and-release [record fish] program. It’s great to know that she’s out there passing along those incredible genes and that someone else may have a chance of landing her someday.”
The MDNR maintains catch-and-release records for four separate species: Muskellunge, northern pike, lake sturgeon, and flathead catfish. The new records program only accounts for a fish’s overall length. The other catch-and-release length record for northern pike—which also measured 46.25 inches—was caught by Brecken Kobylecky of Geneva, Illinois on Basswood Lake in June of 2021.