Wisconsin teen catches record minnow

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Video biggest minnow ever caught

Take a young angler with advanced knowledge of fish species, add an out-sized minnow and what do you have? A Wisconsin record.

Max JonasKrueger, 13, of Madison was catching a steady stream of “smallish” bluegill, yellow perch and pumpkinseed sunfish last Thursday on Fowler Lake in Waukesha County.

The biggest of the bunch was about 6 inches long.

But about noon, something larger swam near the public pier in Fowler Park. Though it technically was a minnow, Max knew the fish was extraordinary.

Max tempted it with a worm on a No. 6 hook. The fish hit and, after a few seconds of rod-quivering excitement, Max hoisted the fish on the dock.

As he suspected, the fish was a golden shiner. It stretched the tape to 9.75 inches in length and weighed 4.8 ounces on a certified scale.

Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor Randy Schumacher identified the fish and, as required to certify state records, opened the fish to check for lead or other foreign substances that might artificially increase its weight.

Unlike some professional cyclists and baseball players, it was clean.

The fish, all 0.3 pounds of it, was officially accepted this week as the Wisconsin hook-and-line record for the species.

Max’s catch smashed the weight of the previous record, caught in 2009 by John Kubisiak on Dexter Lake in Wood County, by 40%.

Golden shiners are best known as bait fish. You can often find them at bait shops, sometimes sold as “golden roaches.”

The fish are native to Wisconsin and widely distributed in the state, preferring marshy ponds and fertile lakes. Golden shiners are part of the Cyprinidae or minnow family, which includes the common carp and fathead minnow.

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These mostly small fish comprise about one-fourth of all fish species in Wisconsin.

The golden shiner is an important food source for crappies, bass and musky, according to George Becker, author of “Fishes of Wisconsin.”

It is also eaten by birds such as herons, mergansers and grebes. And if you needed any further evidence of the large ecological value of this small fish, golden shiners may be a “valuable mosquito destroyer in stagnant water,” noted Becker.

But few anglers target them with hook-and-line, much less have the knowledge and awareness to identify a shiner of record proportions.

How did Max know the fish that swam near the dock was special?

“I just really love fishing and want to learn as much as possible about fish and how to catch them,” said Max, a rising eighth-grader at Sherman Middle School in Madison. “I read about all kinds of fish, so I knew it was a very big shiner.”

Max was fishing last Thursday with his uncle, Roy Jonas of the Town of Oconomowoc.

How knowledgeable is Max about Wisconsin fish? He knew that the golden shiner is very similar to the European rudd, a fish that was introduced to Oconomowoc Lake in the 1920s.

Since Fowler Lake is part of the Oconomowoc chain, Max wanted to make sure his catch wasn’t a rudd.

A scale count by the DNR’s Schumacher confirmed it was pure golden.

The DNR keeps hook-and-line records for 63 fish species. The list includes two colors of perch (yellow and white), seven types of bass (largemouth, smallmouth, white, yellow, rock, striped and hybrid striped) even a pair of buffalo (bigmouth and smallmouth).

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The fish range from giant (lake sturgeon, 170 pounds and 6 feet, 7 inches long) to aquarium-sized (hornyhead chub and common shiner, both at 1.9 ounces and just over 6 inches long).

This year it has two new hook-and-line entries: an 11.8-inch, 9.6-ounce creek chub caught Jan. 17 by Jason Cybula in an unnamed lake in Marathon County and Max’s giant shiner.

Max plans to have a replica mount made of the record shiner. It will go on his wall with about 20 other mounts of species he has caught. It helps to have an uncle (Roy Jonas) who is a taxidermist.

As you might expect, Max’s favorite activity is fishing. When asked what he plans to do the rest of the summer, Max didn’t hesitate: “I’ll be fishing.”

Although his minnow catch has placed him in the spotlight, Max said his favorite fish is the musky. He has caught and released seven muskies this summer, including a 36-incher.

Wisconsin has 1.1 million licensed anglers and probably a million more like Max under the age of 16 who don’t require a license.

How many can match Max’s fish identification acumen?

Let’s say it for the record – Max is one in a million.

Send email to psmith@journalsentinel.com

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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 >>