10-Year-Old Girl Hauls Massive Muskie Through the Ice in Minnesota

On the last day of 2023, she got a fish to remember.

Those of us who grew up fishing often have fond memories of catching a monster fish. At least, it seemed like a monster at the time. But one Wisconsin ten-year-old won't have to guess about the accuracy of her memories of a massive fish in years to come.

Leah Saffert of Rice Lake, Wisconsin made the catch of her life on December 31, rounding out 2023 in style. She was ice fishing with her father, Jamie, and brother, Scott, in the Zippel Bay area of Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. The area has a well-deserved reputation for massive northern pike; the trio were staying at the family's ice shack over New Year's in hopes of catching one with their tip-ups.

Tip-ups, a common tool for perch fishermen, are positioned over a hole in the ice. They hold a spool of line and, when a fish strikes, a flag springs ("tips up") to alert the angler.

Jamie Saffert told Twin Cities Pioneer Press, "We were kind of fishing in shallow water [where] the walleye fishing isn't very good during the day, so we decided to set some tip-ups out, in the hope of catching a big pike."

The Safferts caught something big, that's for sure.

They got their first tip-up at 9:30 that morning. Leah set the hook and started pulling in, but the fish felt really heavy. According to Jamie, "It was like she was dragging in a log, almost. And it swam past the hole and I'm like, 'Holy smokes, that's a big fish!'"

Leah wrestled the fish onto the ice, wrapping her cold hands in her sweatshirt as she brought up the line. Muskies aren't common on the south shore of Lake of the Woods, where the Safferts were fishing. But a muskie it was. They brought the giant muskie back into the ice shack. The family didn't have a tape measure, but they put the muskie up against their sheet of plywood, which was 48 inches long.

The muskie was two inches longer than the plywood. When they weighed it, it tipped the scales at an astounding 34 pounds. That Leah was able to pull such a massive fish through a ten-inch hole in the ice is even more astounding. (The Minnesota record for muskie is 58 inches and an estimated weight of about 65 pounds, caught by Eric Bakke in 2022 while trolling on Mille Lacs Lake in the summer.)

The family took a few quick photos of the fish and released it, with plans of having a graphite replica made of the fish.

Later that day, Leah's older brother Scott, 12, caught a 37-inch pike. Needless to say, the Safferts ended 2023 with a bang.

READ MORE: Our Favorite Record-Breaking Fish of 2023