Minnesota fisherman Aaron Ardoff is a big sunfish fanatic. He and his brothers have 20 to 30 replicas of sunfish they’ve caught, and last winter he fished two dozen different lakes in hopes of hooking a trophy sunny.
But when he finally caught the one that landed his name in the record book, he was actually just “messing around,” Ardoff told the Detroit Lakes Tribune. He was targeting bass and pike at Green Lake with a black and orange spinnerbait on September 18 when a sunfish took his lure.
“As soon as I started reeling, I could tell it wasn’t fighting like a pike or bass,” Ardoff says. “When the fish got closer, I could see that it was a sunfish, and I started panicking. I kept telling myself to not go crazy and just get it in.”
Ardoff caught the fish and says he immediately thought it could be a record green sunfish, which is typically the smallest of the three sunfish species recognized in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. He knew the state record for green sunfish is 1 pound, 3 ounces, and he figured his fish would easily top that mark. He stopped fishing and sent a photo of the catch to MDNR fisheries supervisor Dave Coahran, who told him his catch wasn’t a green sunfish but a hybrid—and that it might be a record anyway.
The two met at Mel’s Sports Shop in Spicer, Minnesota, where they measured the fish and weighed it on a certified scale. The chubby sunfish had a 13-inch girth and was 12 inches long. At 1 pound and 12 ounces, it tied the Minnesota state record for hybrid sunfish. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed the record this week. Ardoff’s fish tied with a hybrid sunfish caught in the Zumbro River in 1994, according to the MDNR.
The hybrid is one of four sunfish categories recognized under MDNR’s State Record Fish program, along with bluegill, green, and pumpkinseed sunfish. Hybrids can result from a cross between any of those three “pure” strains, though the most common mix is from a male bluegill and a female green sunfish.
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