Over the rainbow?
Larry Warren of Orofino, Idaho, joined an exclusive club last week when he landed what can only be described as an incredibly large, if not morbidly obese, rainbow trout from the North Fork Clearwater River in the shadow of Dworshak Dam.
The 32-inch trout, with a girth of 28.25 inches, weighed an impressive 28.37 pounds. That would shatter the state record of 20 pounds. But Warren will have to be content with the satisfaction of landing a magnificent fish and forgo the glory of having his name in the Idaho record book.
At least for now.
There is an outside chance that Warren could make the book, but it’s premised on the Idaho Department of Fish and Game adopting a catch-and-release category for its record book, and that he would be eligible under the rules of the new category.
Under the current rules, Warren comes up short on two points. The first — his fish was not weighed on a certified scale. Instead, Warren weighed the fish using a handheld digital scale.
The weight measurement was taken by his fishing buddy, Ken Bonner of Lewiston, the only witness. That is the second point on which Warren comes up short of Idaho’s rules. The state requires not only the use of a certified scale but also mandates that two people, in addition to the angler, witness the weighing.
“We did everything we thought we needed to do to claim the record,” Warren said.
He even went so far as to have the scale he used calibrated against a certified scale. It was off no more than a few hundredths of a pound. But it wasn’t enough to sway record keepers at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Warren did not have the option to harvest his trout so it could be taken to a butcher shop to be weighed — a common practice of anglers looking to make the record book. The North Fork of the Clearwater River below Dworshak Dam is home to steelhead trout, a sea-run version of rainbows, and not open to the harvest of any rainbow longer than 20 inches unless the fish is of hatchery origin, as evidenced by a scar where its adipose fin has been removed.
The fish Warren caught is not a steelhead. But it was a rainbow trout longer than 20 inches with an intact adipose fin. His only hope to document the catch was to weigh and measure the fish and then release it.
Unfortunately for him, Idaho doesn’t recognize fish that are released. But Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for the department at Lewiston, said the state is planning to explore the idea of adopting a catch-and-release category for its record book in the coming months.
Warren caught the monster while targeting the big rainbow that live beneath Dworshak Dam. The fish are believed to be planted rainbows that escape from Dworshak Reservoir. Once they reach a certain size, they can lurk just below the dam and feed on kokanee that get flushed through the turbines, anything else that passes through the dam and discarded bait from salmon and steelhead anglers.
Warren was using a 5-foot-6-inch rod, with 6-pound test line and a quality reel with a good drag system. It’s light gear for such a big trout, but Warren said he likes that the fine line is difficult for fish to see. He also said with a good drag and the flex of a rod, an experienced angler can manage a monster on a light setup.
“Six-pound test is a formidable foe for any living thing ... if the rest of your gear is up to speed,” he said.
At one point, his line collected moss from the bottom of the river and put a strain on the 6-pound test. But Bonner was able to clean the line for him and restore the proper tension between fish, line and rod. From there he was able to get the big rainbow close to the boat and lift it toward the surface.
The two men formulated a plan, weighed and measured the fish and took pictures before returning it to the net. Reviving the spent monster took some time. Warren said they twice released and then re-netted the fish when it didn’t immediately swim away.
Eventually it regained its strength, thrashed and dove.
“We were pretty happy with that. We thought we maybe hurt it or were too invasive with it.”