Thief River Falls Teenager Catches Monster Sturgeon Off Rainy River Pier (2023)

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don't bounce quite a workout

NEAR BAUDETTE, Minn. — At first glance, it looked like the boy fishing off the pier last Sunday at Ballard's Resort near the mouth of the Rainy River was hopelessly trapped.

His fishing rod was bent almost in half, but a closer look revealed that it wasn't an obstacle.

Dawson Erickson was fighting a fish, and it looked like a real monster.

Erickson, 14, of Thief River Falls, and his dad, Kevin, and sister Ava, 9, headed out to the docks on Sunday morning, May 14, to try to catch a sturgeon before heading home for Mother's Day. They opened the family trailer for the season on the land they rented at the resort across the street, but Kevin's wife, Alicia, didn't make the trip because of a previous engagement.

“She was just sick from not being able to be here, and we thought, 'Well, let's open the trailer and do some fishing off the dock,'” Kevin said. “My boat is still in storage.”


About two hours passed without so much as a sturgeon bite.

“They've been jumping around here all morning,” Kevin said. “We got to see some good ones, but I thought, 'Well, you know, wait a minute.' ”

Then it happened.

In the same way that sturgeon is wont to do, something slammed into the “sturgeon rig” – a circular hook strapped to a 60-pound monofilament leader and weighed with an 8-ounce sinker – they loaded with a mass of nightcrawlers and thrown to rest. at the bottom of the river.

“He did a few touches and Dawson said, 'I hope it's a fish,'” Kevin said. “We were trying all morning.”


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Those taps quickly turned into an epic battle, and Dawson, who is finishing his eighth year at Franklin Middle School in Thief River Falls, had been tossing the fish for nearly an hour when Jason Laumb and three friends, all from Grand Forks, stopped by. your nearby dock for a lunch break.

The quartet, which included a certain Herald outdoor writer, had rented a cabin and dock at the resort for the eye-opener. In perfect timing, they came to lunch just as Kevin Erickson was lying at the end of the dock trying to lift the giant fish at the end of Dawson's line out of the water.

“I thought he was stuck at first – 100%,” Laumb later said. “So when I saw that the sinker was visible, I knew these guys needed help.”


He calculated correctly.

After tying up his boat, Laumb, who is about 6 feet 4 inches tall and goes by the nickname "Sasquatch", rushed to assist Kevin Erickson in an attempt to land the fish. Lying at the end of the dock, the two men managed to get a firm grip on each end of the sturgeon, which was almost as long as the dock was wide.

Fortunately, the Rainy River is quite high again this spring, and the dock was only about 18 inches above the water.

“I grabbed her mouth, put my hand over her mouth and wrapped my other arm around the middle, and her dad and I lifted her up,” Laumb said. “I knew it was a big fish, but I didn't realize how big it was until I got there and saw that old big head on that thing.

“Good thing I have long arms. That's the biggest sturgeon I've ever had in my hands.

The large sturgeon measured 70 inches in length with a girth of 27 inches. According to a length and weight table from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a sturgeon of this length and girth weighs about 91 pounds.

He is also about 51 years old, DNR estimates show.

“Something like that, you don't want to bother trying to weigh it,” Kevin said. “You just get the length and girth and you can get pretty close. This thing was unbelievably heavy.


The sturgeon season at Lake of the Woods and Rainy River closed on May 15th and reopens on July 1st.

don't bounce

Sturgeon populations in Lake of the Woods and Rainy River are recovering after being nearly wiped out in the early 1900s as a result of overfishing and declining water quality in the Rainy River where the fish spawn.

Thanks to clean water legislation enacted in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the US and Canada, along with strict harvesting regulations, sturgeon populations in the US and Canadian waters of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River in 2012 achieved short-term recovery targets. defined by fisheries managers in both countries.

These goals required that male sturgeon reach age 30 and female sturgeon age 50, with fish larger than 70 inches present and 30-year classes – fish of a given year of birth – present in the population.

As the Herald reported in 2012,regular evaluation work confirmed that these targets were achieved.

Large sturgeons like the one Dawson Erickson landed have been all over the internet this spring. Landing the fish would have been nearly impossible without the help of a Sasquatch, if only in nickname, Kevin Erickson said.

“There's no way I can do this on my own,” he said. “It was really big. We were very lucky. I don't know what we would have done. We would be taking pictures in the water because I don't know what you would do. There's no way a man could lift that.

Even with two men lifting the fish, landing it was a challenge.


“Just lifting my half with (Laumb) up front, I'm like, 'Oh my God,'” Kevin said. "I mean, it was just dead weight."

quite a workout

Getting a sturgeon nearly as big as he was was also great exercise for Dawson, who participates in track and field and wrestling in Thief River Falls.

Was fighting a 70-inch sturgeon for an hour any harder than a wrestling match?

“Maybe landing, yeah,” admitted Dawson, who weighs 130 pounds. Still, he wouldn't hand over the fishing rod to his father.

"He said, 'My arms hurt,' and I said, 'Do you want me to fight this?' And he looked at me like, 'Are you crazy?' He wanted to do everything himself," said Kevin.

The sturgeon easily outperformed Dawson's previous best, which measured 38 inches, and the 47-inch Kevin landed last year while fishing off the same dock.

“Wow – I think it's going to be a while before I win this one,” said Dawson. “I mean, (70 inches) is a lot of inches if you think about it.”

Thief River Falls Teenager Catches Monster Sturgeon Off Rainy River Pier (2)

It's also very slimy. Dawson's "Prowler Track & Field" sweatshirt was covered in it after he held the fish in his lap for a photo. When he and his sister lay down next to the sturgeon on the dock for one last photo, the big fish was longer than the two of them.


Laumb and Kevin Erickson gently released the giant fish back into the river.

On many levels, it had been a special morning.

Just three weeks earlier, Dawson and Ava's grandfather, Carter Torgerson of Grygla, Minnesota, died after a long battle with cancer.

He was 67 years old.

An avid outdoorsman, Torgerson was "super close" with his two grandchildren, says Kevin.

“They did a lot together,” he said. “So we sat down today and thought, 'Grandpa, bring us a 60 (inch) sturgeon.' We've been here all morning so far and nothing, not even a walleye, just a few bumps losing lines and stuff.

“And all of a sudden Grandpa appeared.”

Thief River Falls Teenager Catches Monster Sturgeon Off Rainy River Pier (3)

Brad Dokken/Grand Forks Herald

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