By Shawn Perich
The fish story is only as good as the storyteller. Richard “Finn” Ostman of Alango (“a high-class suburb of Cook”) has a great tale about his catch of a near-record silver redhorse in Crane Lake. When we spoke last week, Finn didn’t know the fish had been identified as such, but we’ll get to that.
On Thursday, May 16, he launched at Crane Lake and motored to the Canadian side of Sand Point Lake, where all he caught were walleyes, for which the season hadn’t opened. He headed back to Crane to try his luck in Minnesota waters. He began trolling a Rapala and promptly hung up on the bottom. When he stopped to free the lure, the line suddenly started to move. A battle ensued and up came what he thought was a massive white sucker—28 inches in length, 17 ¼ inches in girth and weighing 9 pounds, 14 ounces.
“The fish filled the livewell,” he said.
He considered getting the fish smoked, but his wife convinced him to contact the DNR and see if the fish was possibly a state record. He hauled the mighty sucker to the state fisheries office in Tower. Experts there told him the fish either a silver or golden redhorse. After huddling around the fish with identification books in hand, the fisheries folks were unable to make a final determination.
Photos of the fish were emailed to the Bell Museum of Natural History in St. Paul. Experts there thought the fish was either a greater or river redhorse. A greater redhorse had not been found in the Lake of the Woods drainage since 1885. The fish was unlikely to top any redhorse records, but the Bell Museum asked Finn to donate the fish for display and he did so.
Catching the whopper redhorse wasn’t the only unusual occurrence on Finn’s Crane Lake trip. Ten minutes after landing his trophy, he hooked and landed a 39-inch muskie—a species only rarely seen in Crane Lake.
“I made two casts and caught two unusual fish. In Minnesota, you just never know what you might catch,” he said. “I’ve been telling everyone I’m Jeremy “Finny” Wade, catching the river monsters of the North.”
And then there was the snake. Motoring away from the boat launch when he started out, he noticed what appeared to be a green and yellow rope hanging over the side of his boat. It was a large snake that had its tail wrapped around a rod holder. When the snake tried to join him in the boat, he managed to flip it into the lake without slowing down.
When we talked, Finn was hopeful the fish was a greater redhorse. He joked that he’d caught a freshwater coelacanth—an ocean species thought to be extinct until one was caught off the African coast in 1938. Alas, that is not the case, Edie Evarts, area fisheries supervisor, said DNR sucker experts (they exist) verified the fish is a silver redhorse. It is one ounce shy of the state record. She was calling Finn after we talked to break the news.
“It’s still an impressive redhorse,” Evarts said.
So why did greater redhorse disappear for the Lake of the Woods drainage in the 1880s? Evarts said they likely were wiped out from the declining water quality in spawning areas resulting from industrialization. The lake sturgeon population suffered, too, but because the species is so long-lived, there were still adults around to spawn and begin rebuilding the population when pollution began to be addressed following the passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s.
Endless Snow Doesn’t Deter Young Hiker
Back in March, Luke Jordan of Maple Plain decided to take a hike. Now, nearing the end of May, he’s still walking. Jordan hopes to become the fourth person to complete a thru-hike of the 4,600-mile North Country Trail, which begins on the Missouri River in North Dakota and passes through seven states to the New York-Vermont border. It is the nation’s newest long-distance trail.
I caught up with Jordan by telephone as he made his way across northeastern Minnesota on the border Route and Superior Hiking trails. He was behind schedule, because until mid-May, his hike had turned into a trudge through deep snow. Jordan had the misfortune of making his hike during a year with record setting spring snowfall.
“It’s been pretty gruesome so far,” he said. “The weather was nice the first week. Then there were four heavy snowstorms. It only stopped snowing last week while I was on the Border Route Trail.
Jordan had snowshoes, but using them slowed his pace to 12-13 miles per day. The snowshoes were not helpful when the snow melted to deep slush, because he sank the bottom with every step. The temperature dropped below freezing every night, so he began each day with frozen shoes.
In Itasca State Park, he encountered extreme snow conditions and was unable to reach a camping shelter. Overwhelmed, he called someone who lived nearby and asked for help. That night, in the comfort of a warm home, he considered walking roads instead of the hiking trail until the snow melted. He talked via phone to nationally known adventurer Andrew Skurka, who encouraged him to continue on the trail. And so he did.
A recent college graduate with a degree in ecology/natural resources, Jordan wanted to “do something” before he started his working career. He chose the North Country Trail in part because it is little known and travels through his home state of Minnesota. He was also impressed with the diversity of terrain along the route, including the Great Plains, the Great Lakes and the Adirondack Mountains. He says the people he’s met along the way have been helpful and generous, which helped him contend with the relentless snow. You can follow Jordan’s progress on his website, www.striderNCT.com.