It’s a near-miss lunker. Jason Waidelich had the catch of a lifetime on the Boise River this month when he hooked a rainbow trout that weighed a whopping 19.25 pounds.
"My adrenaline was pumping, I couldn’t breathe. It was pure shock,” Waidelich told KTVB. "The only time I’ve ever seen a trout that big is in the aquariums at Cabela’s."
The 32-inch long monster was just shy of the state record held by Michelle Larsen-Williams, set in 2009. She hooked her 20-pound, 34.25-inch long rainbow on the Snake River in 2009.
Idaho Fish and Game biologist John Cassinelli agrees. “That’s pretty insane from the Boise River.”
Fish and Game officials don’t keep records for individual rivers or lakes across the state, but Cassinelli guesses, “If it’s not a record, it’s definitely in the top two or three,” for the Boise.
Similar-sized trout are spotted from time to time between Lucky Peak Dam and Diversion Dam, though – the exact area where Waidelich was fishing.
“[The trout] have more of a chance to grow when Diversion Dam diverts water to New York Canal and it basically creates another small reservoir,” Cassinelli says.
Dams can also set up a buffet for these fish to gorge themselves on.
On the north fork of the Clearwater River just below Dworshak Dam, anglers catch similar behemoths.
So what do dams have to do with it? Martin Koenig, the sport fishing program manager with Fish and Game, says he thinks plankton and smaller fish behind the dam get swept out to the larger river for the trout to munch on during high water years.
During drier years, the habitable zone in the water behind the dam shrinks since it’s too hot for the fish toward the surface and there’s not enough oxygen for them to breathe at the bottom.
Even with limited reservoir drawdowns, that sweet spot might be what gets drained, Koenig says, but it’s still theoretical at this point.
With plenty of food and cool, oxygen-rich water to swim in, you’ve got some happy fish that aren’t watching their weight.
“They almost get gross looking because they get so fat,” Cassinelli says.
While the sheer size of the rainbow trout is astounding, Cassinelli thinks it’s also impressive that Waidelich landed the massive fish with an ultralight rod with a four-pound test line in the first place.
Other anglers might want to mount the fish as a trophy, but Waidelich’s wife Bambi tells the Idaho Statesman it’s going in their smoker.
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