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Prepping & Survival

Idaho Fly Fisherman Catches State-Record Cutthroat Trout

Montana’s Clark Fork River only flows through Idaho briefly before it spills into Lake Pend Oreille. That short stretch of river beckoned Daniel Whitesitt and his buddy Caleb Bravard on April 13, and the two fly fishermen hiked into a remote spot in Bonner County. Later that morning, Whitesitt caught and released a beautiful cutthroat trout that was certified as a new state record on Wednesday.

“We’d only caught one trout that morning, so it was pretty slow,” Whitesitt tells Outdoor Life. “But about 9 a.m. I waded out to the head of a pool just below a riffle and made a long cast. I was [fishing] a large, gray stonefly nymph below an indicator.”

Whitesitt’s indicator dipped almost immediately, and when he set, he felt dead weight on the end of his line. For a moment he thought it was a snag — until the snag took off running. Whitesitt knew it was a good fish, but he figured it was a rainbow when he saw the trout jump.

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“There are some big rainbows in that area,” says Whitesitt, a dentist in Post Falls. “I fought the fish deep for a couple minutes, and it just bulldogged down.”

Whitesitt finally worked the trout near shore and yelled for Bravard to help land it. Bravard dashed over, grabbed the net, and scooped up his buddy’s fish. The first thing they noticed was the red slash under its jaw, which told them it was a cutty and not a rainbow.

“I was stunned that it was a cutthroat because of its size,” Whitesitt says. “I thought it might be a state length record, which I believed was 24 inches long. When we carefully measured it and photographed the fish, sure enough, it was 25 inches.”

Because the anglers were out of cell phone range, they couldn’t check the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s record book to see if it was indeed a catch-and release record. (The agency maintains a list of both certified weight records and catch-and-release records, which are measured in inches and not pounds.) They took some photographs anyways and then released the trout back into the river.

Back in town that afternoon, Whitesitt double-checked the IDFG record book and saw that the current catch-and-release record for Westlope cutthroat trout was a 24-incher caught from Priest Lake in 2021. So, he filled out a record application form and sent it to the IDFG office along with photos. He waited before getting too excited, wondering if the fish was actually a rainbow-cutthroat hybrid (also known as a “cutbow”) because of it’s size. But fisheries biologists confirmed that it was a Westslope cutthroat — one of three cutthroat subspecies native to Idaho.

“It was so big, I’d guess six or seven pounds, and cutthroats rarely grow longer than 20 inches. But the state folks looked at the photos carefully and verified that it’s a pure cutthroat and a new record,” Whitesitt says. “I’m likely to have a replica mount made of that fish because it was so beautiful. Its memory will never fade.”

Read the full article here

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