On Monday, November 22, Nolan Sprengeler caught what he calls “the queen”—a 55-pound, 14.8-ounce muskie from Lake Mille Lacs that’s quite likely the largest ever caught in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The Minnesota DNR has confirmed Sprengeler’s record under the state’s certified weight category. The muskie topped a 54-pound, 0-ounce fish that was caught in 1957. Sprengeler’s fish, which taped out at 57¾ inches, is also a hair longer than the 57¼ -inch catch-and-release record that was set last summer, though it is not eligible for that record because Sprengeler kept the monster. Here’s the full story of the epic catch.
Sprengeler and His Buddies Wanted to Fish One Last Time Before Winter
“I’m in a small group of friends that have been chasing state record-size fished the last few years on Lake Mille Lacs,” Sprengeler tells F&S. “Usually, we do that in October and November when the ciscoes are spawning. We were trying to fish the weekend after Thanksgiving, but looking at our weather apps, that probably wasn’t going to happen because we had some single-digit temps coming in and boat accesses were going to be pretty frozen.”
Sprengeler’s buddies Kevin and Zach texted him on Monday, November 22, to see if he wanted to go out for one last hurrah before the lake iced over. Sprengeler called his boss and took the afternoon off. Their plan was to fish from sunset to moonrise when the muskie fishing typically slows down.
“We got to our typical boat access, and there was about a half-inch of ice on it, so we couldn’t use it. The next one we tried was hopelessly frozen, and we couldn’t launch at the next two either,” says Sprengeler. “It was almost dark by then, so we went back to our original boat access. Kevin had a spud bar. We chopped a hole in the ice for the trailer, got the boat in the water, and used the motor to break some ice up.”
By the time they headed out on the lake to fish, there wasn’t much time left before moonrise, but Sprengeler and his buddies were intent on getting some fishing in regardless. It was 19 degrees out, and their trolling motor, rods, and reels kept freezing. The moon rose, and they kept fishing. About an hour later, they decided to fish one last spot—one of the few remaining fishable parts of the lake that wasn’t iced over.
Their Efforts Paid Off at the Last Minute
“Way out on a long cast, I felt a tap,” Sprengeler says. He was fishing with an extra-heavy rod, a big baitcasting reel spooled with 100-pound braid, and a 15-inch soft-plastic swimbait. “I set the hook and could tell it was a nice one, but didn’t think it was that nice. It was a pretty short fight with some huge head shakes. The fish came in clean, and Kevin netted it, but unfortunately, it was hooked pretty deep.”
They used bolt cutters and eventually get the lure out and measured the fish, and then got a quick picture with it. After the photo, Sprengeler returned the fish to the water and spent about 60 minutes trying to revive it, but his efforts were unsuccessful, and the fish wasn’t able to recover. “We decided the best way to honor the fish was to bring it in and get it weighed,” says Sprengeler. “I definitely did not want to keep it at all. That sucked, but it was the best course of action to get the fish certified and into the history books.”
After measuring a 29-inch girth on the fish, Sprengeler was able to estimate that he might have a record-breaker in the boat. The next morning, he called around to find a certified scale, but all of the local tackle shops didn’t have scales that were big enough for his muskie. Eventually, one of his friends suggested a local UPS Store, which was able to get an accurate weight on the fish.
“Muskies are the ultimate predators,” says Sprengeler, who’s planning to get an original skin mount of his fish. “They’re the ultimate fishing challenge… I can’t even describe how excited we all were. It was the last day, last spot, last hour of the season. I still can’t really wrap my head around it. I think it’s going to take a while to really set in.”