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Wade's change of tactics yields huge rainbow trout

With his two sons and father-in-law already trolling three lures close to Diamond Lake's surface, Larry Wade tied on a deeper-diving lure and 1&

189; ounces of lead while applying the scientific theory most-cited by anglers for catching fish.

It was just to do something different, Wade says. Other than that, I don't know why I did it. But it worked.

It worked so well that Wade accomplished something at Diamond Lake not seen since the Eisenhower years.

Wade's change of tactics May 8 yielded an 18&

188; -pound rainbow trout, the biggest beast pulled from Diamond Lake's historic trout-rich waters since 1957.

The fish likely is one of the Williamson River strain of trout stocked as fingerlings there in the late 1990s. These predatory rainbows are considered hearty enough that they can feed on some of the millions of tui chubs that have damaged the lake's trout fishery and ruined its summer water quality.

— That's no surprise at all, says Dave Loomis, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who oversaw the three-year Williamson River trout stocking experiments during 1997-99. That's probably one of those trout that have been in there at least five years. And it's acting like a Williamson River rainbow's supposed to act.

I saw the pictures, he says. That's great.

Yet it's not even close to a state record. That belongs to Eagle Point's Mike McGonagle, who in 1982 caught a 28-pound rainbow trout in the Rogue River. The fish likely was a former Cole Rivers Hatchery brood trout released into the Rogue.

And it's not even the biggest in Diamond Lake history.

Prior to its first tui chub infestation in the mid-1950s, the lake often sported rainbows more than 20 pounds, says Steve Koch, the Diamond Lake Resort manager.

But it's big enough to generate quite a buzz among anglers who have shied away from the lake because of the chub problems.

It's grand to see these big fish, Koch says. We expect more anglers here Memorial Day weekend.

Wade's fabled Saturday certainly didn't start particularly grand nor memorable.

Rain, wind and snow greeted Wade, father-in-law Jim McKiddy and Wade's sons, ages 5 and 8, when they launched McKiddy's lake boat at the resort.

Trolling in front of the resort, the foursome caught one 3-pound when Wade changed to a No. 7 Flatfish tied onto 8-pound leader with a 1&

189; -ounce sinker.

It got me down about 15 feet, says Wade, a 34-year-old millworker from Roseburg. All of a sudden, the fish just hammered that thing. I knew it was a big fish.

The trout chugged away for at least a few minutes before it finally stopped peeling line off his reel. Then Wade started methodically reeling in the trout, which felt like a rock tied to the end of his line.

It just pulled hard the whole time, he says. A fish that wide pushes a lot of water.

Even as the trout swirled and thrashed near the boat, Wade didn't know what he actually had.

I didn't know how big he was until we tried to get it into the net and it wouldn't go, he says. It got about half-way into the net and flopped out. I almost panicked.

McKiddy didn't panic. Instead he swooped the 2-foot-wide net deep into the water, and the 32-inch trout swam right into it.

We got that fish in the boat and we just sat there a couple minutes, staring at him, Wade says.

They recovered, fished another hour and headed to the resort to weigh it.

At the dock, they examined its stomach and found five large chubs inside.

The ODFW stocked 50,000 of the Williamson River strain of rainbows annually from 1997 through '99 to see if they can survive in the chub-full lake, where conventional rainbows have been out-competed by chubs.

The Williamson rainbows had a survival rate of only 2 percent, and Loomis believes there likely are fewer than 200 of them left in Diamond Lake.

Though it makes for a good fishing story, the big trout don't make for a solution to Diamond Lake's tui-chub dilemma, Loomis says.

These big trout could never eat enough chubs to reduce their population and reverse the lake's summer algae blooms that at times leave the water toxic to people and pets.

The ODFW maintains that only chemically treating the lake to kill all its fish is the only way to kill off the chubs, and return Diamond Lake to a place where fish stories are about many people catching many nice fish instead of one man catching one huge trout.

It's great that people are actually targeting these trophy fish, Loomis says. But we're no way near reaching the angling effort and angling success at Diamond Lake that we want.

Wade won't let the big picture tarnish his big-trout snapshot.

I was plenty impressed with it, Wade says. People go to Alaska to catch fish like this. I got one in Oregon.

Wade better bask in his 15 minutes of trout-fishing fame.

This past week, anglers imitating Wade's impromptu trolling techniques have caught trout weighing 13-14 pounds.

Before, when we had 12-pound trout, I thought that was big, says Koch, from the resort. Now, people are out there looking for that 20-pounder.

Come Saturday, the 20-pound crowd will include Wade.

I'm sure there's more in that lake, he says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail