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On Nov. 17, Mark Reed of Blanchard caught the 10-lb., 10.56-oz. rainbow, breaking the nearly half-century-old state record of Billy Payne, who caught his 10-lb., 4-oz. trout from the Illinois River in July of 1966.
Reed's fish was 27 3/4 inches in length and 17 1/2 inches in girth. He caught the fish from the west side of the lake using a copper-colored Super Duper 502 with a red head.
"Mr. Reed asked his sons to accompany him to Roman Nose State Park," said Keith Thomas, central region fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation who certified the record. "They turned him down - too cold and wanted to sleep in. They're kicking themselves now."
At Thomas' encouragement, Reed is having the fish mounted.
Native to cold-water streams, trout can survive all year long in Oklahoma's two year-round trout areas (the Lower Mountain Fork River and Lower Illinois River), but generally cannot survive year-round in Oklahoma's warm waters. However, they can be stocked for fishing during the winter, providing a unique opportunity to anglers. There are six seasonal trout fisheries in Oklahoma that are stocked throughout most of the fall and winter, usually beginning Nov. 1 and continuing into March. According to fisheries biologists, however, it's possible Reed's record fish wasn't stocked this year. The fish's excellent body condition and the documentation of over-summering trout because of cold water from springs that flow into Lake Watonga could mean the fish had been in the lake for some time.
Thomas said the big fish was colorful, had healthy fins and showed no bodily abrasions that are typical of trout that have recently come from a hatchery, where the fish are more pale in color and raised in concrete raceways. Once the trout acclimate to their new environment and start eating natural foods, their bright color comes out and their body conditions improve.
"Due to cold water from springs that flow into Lake Watonga, it is possible that this fish survived and grew to become our new state record rainbow trout."
Though it cannot be confirmed whether the fish was stocked this year or in a previous year, it remains that Reed's fish is one for the record books.
Along with Lake Watonga, Oklahoma's seasonal state-designated trout areas include the Blue River, Robber's Cave, Medicine Creek and Lakes Pawhuska and Carl Etling. For trout season regulations and full details on each area, consult page 38 of the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide," available free online at wildlifedepartment.com or in print anywhere fishing licenses are sold. Urban anglers also can catch trout during the winter at Dolese Youth Park Pond in Oklahoma City (NW 50th and Meridian) and Veterans Park Pond in Jenks (101st and South Elm).
Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma State Department of Agriculture certified scale, and a Wildlife Department employee must verify the weight. For a complete list of record fish and the procedures for certifying a state record, consult the current "Oklahoma Fishing Guide" or log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
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