MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota fisherman's possible world-record catch of a lake trout could be disqualified because it may have been illegally caught in Canada.
After an hour-long struggle, Rob Scott pulled the 52-pound, 3-ounce fish through the ice on the Ontario side of Lac la Croix on Feb. 8.
Earlier that day, Scott caught a 4-pound trout and it was on the ice when two Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources officers on snowmobiles stopped to check Scott's license. After catching the bigger fish, Scott gave the smaller fish to a fellow angler, leaving him with his legal limit of one to return to Minnesota.
Scott told the Star Tribune on Thursday that the fish probably was taken in violation of Ontario law, which limits anglers to one lake trout daily. Scott, who lives in Crane Lake, said he was fishing only about 100 feet from the Minnesota side of Lac la Croix, where the lake trout limit is two.
Even if he had wanted to release the bigger trout, Scott said, it would have died quickly beneath the ice, given the long time he had spent fighting it.
Scott said Thursday he's not hiding anything.
"I called the Ontario officers Tuesday morning and told them I owed them an apology," the 65-year-old said. "It wasn't illegal for me to keep fishing after I caught the first trout. But when I caught the bigger fish, with the adrenaline and everything I had going, and the fact that it wasn't going to survive if I released it, I figured if I gave the smaller fish away, that would be OK."
The big fish was confiscated Monday from a Duluth taxidermist by a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officer. One of the Aitkokan, Ontario-based officers who had stopped to check Scott's license read an account of Scott's big fish and recalled that he and the other officer had checked Scott earlier with the smaller fish.
Scott was interviewed at his home Monday evening by two Minnesota conservation officers. One of the officers, Darrin Kittelson of International Falls, said the incident remains under investigation, and that he expected to take possession of the trout soon from another Minnesota DNR officer, before returning it to Ontario authorities.
The world record for a lake trout caught by tip-up through the ice is less than 30 pounds. Scott hadn't weighed his big trout on an official scale. However, fish caught in violation of any law are not eligible for record-book status.