(Mankato, MN) –  When Johnny Boutchee went fishing over the weekend – as he frequently does – he planned on catching walleye.

Prior to the Gopher football game, the Mankato man decided to hit up one of his favorite spots on the Minnesota River.  “It’s a beautiful spot for walleyes,” Boutchee said of his place down the hill from the softball fields at Sibley Park.  “I was using a ten-pound line and a rattle trap.”

But it wasn’t a walleye that Boutchee hooked.  Instead, a 38-pound, 52-inch muskie had latched on to his line.

“When I first got it, I thought it was a buffalo fish, ’cause they’re moving upriver right now,” he said.  “I was trying to jerk it off the hook, but then I finally got it close enough to me, and I said ‘Damn! That’s a big muskie!’”

Bouchee said in his nearly 60 years of fishing, he’s caught one other muskie in the river off Judson Bottom Road.  He described that fish as a “skinny little tiger that looked like a toothpick.”  His Saturday catch, he says, is the biggest muskie he’s ever seen.

The fish took Boutchee about 45 minutes to reel in.  “Usually, muskies…people are using 60 and 80-pound line.  I was only using ten-pound line.”

When the fish was reeled in, Boutchee and his companion took photos.  The two used an official scale to weigh the muskie and measured the fish before releasing it back into the Minnesota River.

Muskies are typically regarded as a difficult fish to catch.  Tony Sindt, a Minnesota River Specialist with the Minnesota Department of Resources says muskellunge – or muskies – were aptly described in an old saying as the “fish of 10,000 casts.”

French Lake near Faribault and Fox Lake in the Windom area are two southern Minnesota lakes with a muskie population, according to Sindt.  But muskie is otherwise more commonly found in the northern part of the state, and the Mississppi and St. Croix rivers.

“They prefer clearer water and vegetation,” said Sindt, “So as far as the Minnesota River goes, it doesn’t provide optimal habitat for them,” said Sindt.  “I don’t know the population in the Minnesota River, but it’s a very small number; there’s very few in the river, so to catch one would be very rare.”

Meanwhile, Boutchee will get a photo printed and framed to add to his collection of fishing memorabilia.

Boutchee said he began fishing at age 10 when his mother would tell him to go out and catch her a fish for dinner.  The Mankato man, now nearly 67-year-old, says this fishing experience ranks number one in all of his fishing memories.

“I don’t drink or anything,” he said.  “So it’s like a drug to me.  I just go fishing.”

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