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  • Idaho Outdoor News

    Giant Rainbow Trout Caught in North Fork Clearwater
    Location: Idaho

    On January 8 an angler and his friend fishing the North Fork Clearwater River landed a rainbow trout that would easily be a new state record, but they couldnít legally keep it. Thatís because any rainbow trout longer than 20 inches with an intact adipose fin is legally considered a steelhead and must be released if caught in waters where steelhead might be found. Wild steelhead (ocean going cousins of rainbow trout) are protected under the endangered species act. Hatchery steelhead are marked by removing the adipose fin. In order to ensure wild steelhead are protected in Idaho waters, Fish and Game requires all rainbow trout longer than 20 inches be released unharmed in waters where wild steelhead naturally return.

    When Larry Warren landed the monster rainbow he knew he had no choice but to let it go, but he and his fishing companion took photographs and weighed and measured the giant before putting it back in the water. Their scale put the rainbow at 28.37 pounds. They say it was 32 inches long with an amazing girth of 28.5 inches. Fish and Game tested the scale the anglers used, and found it to be relatively accurate, but in order to qualify for a place in Idahoís record books, a fish must be weighed on a certified scale.

    Some people might think it is unfortunate that the fish had to be released but it is important to remember that this fish might not have ever reached such a size if not for the very rule that required its release. Fish and Game sees photos of giant rainbows landed on steelhead streams from time to time, and anecdotal information suggests these fish are caught more often than some might think. Once a rainbow trout reaches 20 inches in waters that might contain wild steelhead, it receives protection that rainbows in other waters donít share. (Since 2010, all trout in the Clearwater and North Fork Clearwater were excluded from harvest to protect adult and juvenile steelhead.) So even though this fish was likely released as a sterile ten inch rainbow trout intended for harvest around seven years ago, it has received the same protection as wild rainbows in catch-and-release only waters like the upper Henryís Fork. If not for that protection, it is unlikely those fish would survive long enough to attain that size. Additionally, fish living below dams like Dworshak have access to some pretty easy food coming out of the damís turbines.

    Regardless of whether this fish could or should have made it into Idahoís record books, the good news for anglers is the opportunity to make such a rare catch; and because the angler who caught this one did the right thing, there is a 28 pound rainbow still swimming in the North Fork Clearwater, possibly waiting to be caught again.

    News Source: Idaho F&G - Jan. 17, 2015

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