MINNEAPOLIS -- Whatever the appropriateness of, or need for, fish "records," Minnesota should rid itself of one that serves no good and in fact, during the course of each summer, does harm.
At issue is the state "record" muskie, meaning the largest such fish ever caught here. Standing now at 54 pounds, this mark surely has been broken in recent years -- but in each instance, rather than killing the big fish, the anglers in question have released them to swim again.
As it should always be, at least with muskies.
Recently, an angler caught a big muskie on White Bear Lake that ultimately was killed and taken to a bait shop to be weighed. No judgment is made here of the angler, who did nothing illegal, or even, arguably -- depending on one's point of view -- unethical.
But would that fish have been killed if there were no chance it would become the state's reigning muskie record?
Maybe. But possibly not.
I make no argument that records of some fish species aren't appropriate. Trophy-size walleyes and bass, among other fish, usually are past their peak breeding years, and little harm is done if such fish are kept, for whatever reason.
Muskies are different. They take longer to grow, they're more challenging to catch--and, yes, they are the product in this state of a dedicated class of angler, many of whom wouldn't kill a big fish for whatever reason, state record or not, world record or not.
Some will say I'm arguing that muskie anglers deserve special treatment, and that "their" fish shouldn't be killed to accommodate them.
I'd put it this way: The rest of us would do well to emulate the true muskie angler's ethical code -- namely that chasing fish is great, but chasing fish to land one's name in a record book is an anachronism whose time has come and gone.
Or should be.