Minnesota State Record Fish: The Complete Guide

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Known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is a freshwater paradise. But more importantly, it’s a dream come true for every avid angler. If you’re wondering why that’s the case, the answer is simple – the entire state is brimming with record-breaking specimens! And no, we aren’t exaggerating. We’re probably selling it short. But we’ll let the Minnesota state record fish speak for themselves.

We could endlessly gush about Minnesota being the ultimate freshwater angling destination, but only facts testify to this. So, in this article, we’ll list the most sought-after fish species in Minnesota and give you an account of how they made the headlines. So without further ado, let’s see what all the hype is about.

Biggest Fish Caught in Minnesota by Species

As a freshwater fishing magnate, Minnesota boasts world-famous fish species such as Bass, Catfish, Crappie, Sunfish, and Perch. The list goes on and includes local VIPs like Walleye, Pike, Musky, and Sturgeon, too. But be it a local or global favorite (or both), one thing is certain – there isn’t a shortage of brag-worthy catches.

To see what Minnesota’s record for each headliner is, click on the species below. Bear in mind that the fish are listed in alphabetical order and not according to the latest record.

  • Bass (Largemouth)
  • Bass (Smallmouth)
  • Catfish (Flathead)
  • Crappie
  • Musky
  • Perch (Yellow)
  • Pike (Northern)
  • Sturgeon
  • Sunfish
  • Walleye

Bass (Largemouth)

  • Minnesota state record: 8 lbs 15 oz on Auburn Lake in 2005.

Largemouth Bass are, without a doubt, among the most popular freshwater game fish in the world. Minnesota is no exception. One reason they’re so much in demand is because they’re excellent opponents. They’ll strike your bait with explosive force. The other reason is their abundance. You’ll find them in over 2,000 lakes and almost all major rivers in Minnesota.

The weedy shorelines and underwater structures of Leech Lake, Lake Minnetonka, and Vermillion Lake make an ideal habitat for Largemouth Bass. Besides lakes, you can count on the Mississippi, St. Croix, Zumbro, and Cloquet Rivers to always provide you with a bragging story. From the regular 2-pounders to enviable 5-pounders, these hotspots won’t disappoint with their Largemouth Bass offer.

Curiously enough, the Minnesota state record Largemouth Bass didn’t come from any of these fisheries. The biggest Minnesota Bass was taken from Auburn Lake in 2005. The fish weighed 8 pounds 15 ounces and was 23.5 inches long. And more impressively, its girth was 17.5 inches! This monster dethroned its predecessor, which had held the record for 11 years.

To make the entire story even more interesting, this beast was the first fish of the morning for Mark Raveling, a 54-year-old tournament angler. How about that?

Bass (Smallmouth)

  • Minnesota state record: 8 lbs on West Battle Lake in 1948.

If you thought that Largemouth Bass were all the rage, wait to see what Minnesota Smallmouth Bass have in store for you. Smallies are anything but small. While they weigh between 2 and 4 pounds on average, they can easily outgrow Largemouth and reach 8 pounds. What’s more, the Minnesota state record Smallmouth Bass caught on West Battle Lake in 1948 was an 8 lb brute!

West Battle Lake isn’t the only body of water stocked with Smallmouth Bass. Their population is vibrant in the upper Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, as well as in all major drainages across the state. They also thrive in Rainy Lake, Mille Lacs Lake, and Basswood Lake. In fact, two of the biggest Minnesota Smallies were caught in these lakes – a Lake Mille Lacs 5-pounder landed in 2001 and a Basswood Lake 6-pounder hooked in 1997.

Long story short, it seems that it’s high time a new Minnesota state record for Smallmouth Bass was made! So, gear up with hard lures, soft tube baits, plastic worms, spinners, or jigs, and hit one of these lakes and rivers in late spring and score the next state record.

The rocky eddies of rivers and crystal-clear shallows of lakes will be your allies when outsmarting Smallies. Once hooked, however, they won’t go down without a fight. More aggressive than Largemouth, Smallies will make you break a sweat – and hopefully a record, too.

Catfish (Flathead)

  • Minnesota state record: 52.25 inches on the St. Croix River in 2017.
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Speaking of hefty fellas that will spice up your angling endeavors, have you ever fished for Flathead Catfish? These massive creatures are the second largest fish in Minnesota, preceded only by Sturgeon. Their size and weight often surpass the Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass records combined!

A photo of an angler sitting on a charter boat on the river in front of a shoreline and posing with a small Flathead Catfish caught in Minnesota during the fall season

If you haven’t battled these monsters before, it’s high time you added them to your bucket list. Not only are they size-inspiring, but they’re also fun and easy to catch. You just have to know where to look for them and how to lure them your way.

A usual stink bait, for example, doesn’t work for Flatheads as they prefer live bait. Also, stick to rootwad patches with moderate current, and a Catifsh will almost immediately grace the end of your line. To ensure they stay on the line, use a sturdy 7′ rod with at least a 30 lb test line.

When it comes to the exact spot, look no further than the St. Croix River and its Stillwater region. The St. Croix River has been the most reliable fishery for pulling out giants over the years. This is also the place where the first Minnesota Flathead Catfish record was made in 1970. It was none other than a 70-pounder! But that wasn’t the only jaw-dropping Flathead caught here. Mark Mosby hit the jackpot with a behemoth measuring 4.38 feet in 2017 after only 15 minutes of reeling!

Crappie

  • Minnesota state record: A 5 lb, 21″ Black Crappie on the Vermilion River in 1940.

Unlike Catfish, Crappie aren’t impressive in size. Yet, they rank pretty high on Minnesota’s list of favorite fish to pursue. What’s more, they come immediately after Walleye. So, what’s the catch (pun intended)?

The reasons to love Crappie are numerous. Apart from being delicious and available throughout the entire year, they’ll motivate you to experiment with your angling approaches. A minnow beneath a bobber and a beetle-spin casting lure is effective. But you’ll have to mix and match baits, lures, and techniques until you find the right combo.

Even though Crappie can be elusive, the good news is that they’re widespread. Minnesota’s lakes and rivers are stocked with Crappie. You can wet your line anywhere from Mille Lacs Lake, Minnetonka Lake, and Lake Winnibigoshish to Red Lake, Sand Lake, Lake Andrew, and Bowstring Lake. Wherever you, there, the chances are you’ll end up with a decent 12″, 1 lb specimen.

A record-breaking bruiser, however, was found in the Vermillion River in 1940. The fish in question was Black Crappie which measured 21 inches long and weighed 5 pounds! So now that you know where to look for Crappie and how to outwit them, you’re ready break the old Minnesota state Crappie record.

Musky

  • Minnesota state record: 58.25 inches on Mille Lacs Lake in 2022.

Muskellunge, better known as Muskies, are naturally large fish. They typically grow to be between 28 and 48 inches. Quite a catch, right? Now imagine how rewarding a 4.9-footer is. Well, that’s precisely what the latest Minnesota Musky record is!

The lucky angler who broke the previous record (a 4.8′ Musky caught in 2021) for the longest Musky in Minnesota is Eric Bakke of Princeton. He was trolling on Mille Lacs Lake with his fishing buddy Jon Blood when the trophy fish bit. They measured it, snapped a photo, and returned the fish to the water. Having in mind how Muskies can live 18 years on average, he released it hoping there would be still a chance for someone to clash with this titan.

If this sparked your interest in Musky fishing, then you know where to find the next Minnesota record. But Mille Lacs Lake isn’t the only place with a hot bite. The previous two Musky records were made on Lake Vermillion. With these two powerful bodies of water at your disposal, a superb Musky hunt is guaranteed!

One final tip for landing a prize catch is to align your pursuit with Muskies’ peak season. While the prime time to go after Muskies is in late summer, you’ll usually spot the largest specimens in October.

Perch (Yellow)

  • Minnesota state record: 3 lbs 4 oz on Lake Plantagenet in 1945.

Often overshadowed by their more popular neighbors such as Crappie and Walleye, Yellow Perch aren’t to be missed out on. Perky and tasty, Yellow Perch aren’t the biggest fish around and they most certainly aren’t the best fighters. They are, however, excellent ice-fishing targets. Sure, you can hunt them year-round, but wintertime is when they shine the brightest.

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If you want the Perch to bite, you’ll first have to intrigue them. Start with a basic hook and slowly introduce spinner rigs and small jigs. And then boost your odds by adding live bait like worms or crayfish. If you’re ice fishing, use ice flies tipped with grubs as well. Of course, this is just a suggestion and the possibilities are endless.

All in all, you get the point – Yellow Perch are exciting to fish for. They’ll always keep you on your toes. And that’s another reason anglers find a thrill in going after Yellow Perch. Should you need any further motivation to pursue them, we can tell you that Minnesota’s waters are overflowing with Perch.

Lake Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, Cass Lake, Lake of the Woods, Big Stone Lake, and Mille Lacs Lake are famous Perch fisheries. They’ll treat you to plenty of 10-ouncers. However, if you’re after the new Minnesota state record Perch, you might want to check out Lake Plantagenet. This is where the last record was caught, weighing an incredible 3 pounds and 4 ounces!

Pike (Northern)

  • Minnesota state record: 46.25 inches on Basswood Lake in 2021 and Mille Lacs Lake in 2024.

Next up, we present you Northern Pike. Formidable fighters and aggressive predators, Pike are a beloved sport fish in Minnesota. On top of being worthy rivals, Pike are available in almost all lakes across the state making them must-fish targets when angling in Minnesota. They’re on every angler’s list! With them being everywhere and everyone going after them, it’s no surprise then that the Minnesota state record Northern Pike is a tie!

Yes, you read that correctly – Minnesota has not one but two Pike records! The latest prize fish was caught by Brad Lila on Mille Lacs Lake in 2024 and it shares first place with the 2021 Pike reeled in by Brecken Kobylecky on Basswood Lake. Both creatures were 3.85 feet long! When compared to a common 26-inch keeper, these trophies sound amazing. Apart from quantity, Minnesota boasts quality Pike fishing as well.

To glorify Minnesota’s Pike fishing opportunities even further, we have to tell you that one state record was an ice fishing product, while the other was a summer angling outcome. So, be it summer or winter, a record-breaking Pike is waiting for you in Minnesota!

Mille Lacs Lake and Basswood Lake are the ultimate spots for you to chase that gigantic Pike, but so are the Rainy River, Leech Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish, and Lake Vermillion. Beware that it took 30 minutes and a helping hand for Brad Lila to pull his monster out of hiding. You’ll need serious muscle power and assistance if you want to break the current record.

Sturgeon

  • Minnesota state record: 78 inches on the St. Croix River in 2019.

Speaking of back-breaking action, you’ll most certainly need all the help you can get for these colossal beings. Sturgeon are “living dinosaurs of the fish world” for a reason. They can live over 150 years and weigh an unbelievable three digits! But what about Minnesota’s Sturgeon?

Lake Sturgeon are Minnesota’s largest fish and they can weigh more than 100 pounds. As for length, let’s say that a 3′ fish in the Rainy River is a common occurrence. Darren Troseth, however, was fortunate enough to stumble on what may be the biggest-ever fish in Minnesota! It was none other than a 6.5′ ice fishing catch! This makes the Minnesota state record Sturgeon quite the catch.

Darren, a seasoned angler and an experienced captain, said he had caught many beasts during his lifetime but he had never seen a fish that big! Since one regular hole wasn’t enough, he had to drill four more before he could brag about his trophy! He even immortalized his epic ice fishing moment on the St. Croix River in a video.

Although neither endangered nor threatened, Sturgeon are considered a species of special concern in order to be protected from overfishing and extinction. So, please have this in mind when chasing the Minnesota Sturgeon record.

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Sunfish

  • Minnesota state record: 1 lb 12 oz on the Zumbro River in 1994 and Green Lake in 2022.

Slowly but surely, we’re wrapping up Minnesota’s line-up of the state record fish. Maybe they aren’t as mind-blowing as Sturgeon, but Sunfish deserve praise, too. Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Green, and Hybrid, Sunfish are popular species to fish for in Minnesota. And each has its own record. But the latest Sunfish record was a 2022 Hybrid – and it was the same as the 1994 record. Yes, another tie!

Aaron Ardoff, the holder of the current Minnesota state record Sunfish, always hoped he’d get his hand on trophy Sunny. However, he was targeting Pike and Bass with spinnerbaits on Green Lake when he suddenly realized his dream was about to come true. And, as fate would have it, he landed a record-breaking Sunny that September in 2022.

Aaron’s Hybrid weighed in at 1 pound and 12 ounces! And this chubby fella tied the one reeled in from the Zumbro River back in 1994. For a Panfish that doesn’t always exceed half a pound, this was quite an accomplishment.

Mostly pursued due to their exquisite reputation as table fare, Sunfish are surprisingly good fighters, too. Whether you’re after a plump Sunny like Aaron’s or if you’re into a delicious dinner, Gull Lake, Green Lake, and the backwaters of the Mississippi River will always greet you with a healthy Sunfish population.

Walleye

  • Minnesota state record: 17 lbs 8 oz on the Sea Gull River in 1979.

We saved the best for last – Walleye. Big, mean, fast, furious, elusive, and unpredictable, Walleye are everything a game fish should be. It’s no wonder that Walleye are Minnesota’s state fish and that two counties, Garrison and Baudette, compete for the title of “Walleye Capital of the World!”

To pump things up further, it was Cook County and the Sea Gull River at Saganaga Lake that took the Walleye crown – not Garrison or Baudette. This is where the Minnesota Walleye state record of 17 pounds and 8 ounces was found by LeRoy Chiovitte in 1979. The specimen was almost 3 feet in length with a girth of 21.25 inches.

Don Mickel was on the verge of beating this record in 2012 but he had to release his catch and was unable to confirm its potential. But this is great news for you as it means there’s still room for snatching a true gem in one of Minnesota’s Walleye fisheries.

The average Minnesota Walleye ranges between 1 and 4 pounds, but 8-pounders regularly patrol the waters of Mille Lacs Lake and Lake of the Woods. And then, from time to time, a giant appears.

Minnesota State Record Fish: An Overview

Here’s a quick breakdown of the above-mentioned species, their measurements, and the angling hotspots that made history:

Species Pounds Ounces Length (in) Girth (in) Place Year Bass (Largemouth) 8 15 23.25 17.25 Auburn Lake 2005 Bass (Smallmouth) 8 0 N/A N/A West Battle Lake 1948 Catfish (Flathead) N/A N/A 52.25 32 St. Croix River 2017 Crappie (Black) 5 0 21 N/A Vermillion River 1940 Musky N/A N/A 58.25 N/A Mille Lacs Lake 2022 Perch (Yellow) 3 4 N/A N/A Lake Plantagenet 1945 Pike (Northern) N/A N/A 46.25 N/A Basswood Lake 2021 Pike (Northern) N/A N/A 46.25 23.5 Mille Lacs Lake 2024 Sturgeon N/A N/A 78 29.25 St. Croix River 2019 Sunfish (Hybrid) 1 12 11.25 12 Zumbro River 1994 Sunfish (Hybrid) 1 12 12 13 Green Lake 2022 Walleye 17 8 35.75 21.25 Sea Gull River 1979

Minnesota State Record Fish: A Neverending Story

You’ve reached the end of this article but the list of Minnesota’s state record fish is a neverending story. The records aren’t set in stone and each day brings us closer to a new jaw-dropping trophy that might dethrone its predecessor. After all, this is the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the possibilities are endless.

We’ll keep a close eye on Minnesota’s angling scene and update you as new brag-worthy fish emerge. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll write about you and your fish.

How did you like our Minnesota state record fish blog? What record surprised you? Do you have any Minnesota bragging stories of your own? Hit the button below and share your thoughts with us.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>