A potential world record lake trout caught from the Ontario side of Lac la Croix by a northern Minnesota ice fisherman has been returned to Canada. The development marks the latest twist in a case involving a diehard ice angler who, in the heat of the moment, kept a gigantic lake trout after already icing and keeping a smaller laker earlier in the day.
The story begins on February 8, when Rob Scott of Crane Lake, Minnesota, set forth for a day of fishing on the sprawling border water. He set up shop just across the Canadian line, which was not an issue, since he had an Ontario license.
An avid winter fisherman who logs 30 or more days each season, Scott was excited to be on the ice. He soon landed a 4-pound laker, a fine catch considering the wary char’s cautious character. “I kept fishing,” he recalls. “Not targeting trout, but hoping for a northern or some whitefish.” All of which was perfectly legal. In fact, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources officers checked him shortly thereafter, and the officers found nothing amiss.
However, when Scott’s tip-up tripped later that day, he hooked neither northern nor whitefish, but the laker of lifetime. After an intense battle, he hauled in a behemoth mackinaw that stretched 45 inches in length, with a 32-inch girth. When weighed on a hand-held scale later that day, it pulled the needle down to 52 pounds, 3 ounces.
The National Fresh Water Hall of Fame recognizes a 29-pound, 6-ounce lake trout, caught by James Alexander, Jr. on Vermont’s Willoughby Lake in 1996, as the world tip-up record. Which means Scott held a potential record in his hands.
The only hitch was, Ontario fishing regulations allow an angler to keep just one lake trout per day. And party fishing—giving a fish to another angler so you can continue keeping fish—is not permitted. Had Scott been angling the waters of his home state, a stone’s throw from where his tip-up was situated, there would have been no issue with keeping a second trout. But he was fishing in Ontario, and provincial rules allowed no wiggle room.
Charged with adrenaline, and believing the big fish would die upon release after being plucked from the icy depths 55 feet below his flag, Scott decided to keep the giant lake trout and give the smaller fish to his nephew, who was also headed out fishing on the lake that day.
That action put him in violation of provincial fishing regulations, and when word spread from local anglers to the media, including major Minnesota newspapers in Duluth and the Twin Cities, the Ontario MNR got wind of the catch.
Acting in cooperation with their Canadian counterparts, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers interviewed Scott and confiscated the fish from Bowe Taxidermy in Duluth. Fort Frances-Atikokan area enforcement MNR supervisor Kevin Elliott confirmed on Monday, March 3 that the fish has been returned to Ontario, and is in the ministry’s possession.
Because the case is under investigation, Elliott declined to speculate on potential charges, fines, or punishments. For his part, Scott said he realizes he made a mistake, holds no ill will toward the MNR, and is cooperating with the investigation. “I respect their rules, and am not fighting to get the fish back,” he said.
As for closure, he hopes that the province allows him to fish its waters again. “All I’m asking for is the ability to keep coming back to Ontario,” he says. “Hopefully it’s not elevated to some type of offense where I can’t go back.”
On the subject of whether or not the lake trout could become the new tip-up world record, Hall of Fame director Emmett Brown said that it would have to be a legally caught fish for record consideration.