Alex Dietz of Bend was fly fishing for trout on the Deschutes River near Warm Springs on December 19th when he hooked a 5 pound, 12-ounce, 24-inch-long mountain whitefish with a 14-inch girth.
“It felt heavy, put a good bend in the rod. I fought it for a while. All the sudden, it jumped. I’ve never had a whitefish jump before. I was like ‘oh my god, that’s a big whitefish.’ And then it jumped a second time. I was blown away,” Dietz said. “I had a little trouble getting it in the net. Got it in the net, and it filled it up. Then we started celebrating and cheering. My buddy took a couple of pictures.”
Dietz was preparing to release the fish when his buddy suggested keeping it to see if it might be a state record.
Turns out, it is a new state record by almost a pound over the previous record whitefish which was caught in Crane Prairie Reservoir in 1994.
It also appears to beat the existing world record whitefish, caught in Alberta in 1995, by 4 ounces.
“It weighed in at 5 pounds, 12 ounces. I got started on the paperwork for the state record and the world record. The world record needs a lot more info, from the state and stuff like that, who accredits the scales it was measured on and things like that. The state record was easy. Just needed the guy that weighed it and one other witness.”
“Your fishing buddy do that?”
“Yep, and the meat cutter at Newport Market. It went smooth. Hopefully, the world record goes as smooth as well.”
Dietz must submit samples of the leader and tippet material he caught the fish on for testing before the International Game Fish Association will certify it as a new world record.
For a guy who was permitted by his wife to go fishing for the first time since the birth of their first child, to suddenly becoming a state record and possible world record holder is quite a thrill.
“So now you can sincerely brag to your buddies, ‘I am a state record holder.'”
“Oh yeah, they’ve been giving me plenty of crap about it for sure.”
By now, some of you may be wondering, what are whitefish?
They are native to northwestern waters.
They are a member of the salmonid family, similar to trout in many respects.
Whitefish eat immature mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies.
“Some people see their sub terminal mouth on the bottom of their face, and they think they are a sucker; that they are a trash fish but really they are not,” said Tim Porter, Prineville District Assistant Fish Biologist for the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. “They can be a little bony, but they eat quite well. People love smoking whitefish.”
Mountain whitefish are gaining popularity as a sport fish and can be taken by fly fishing or casting with small baits.
In fact, a local fly shop hosts a whitefish derby each fall to promote the sporting aspects of whitefish.
That’s how Alex Dietz heard about them and knew what the record-breaking fish was when he caught it.
“For me, fly fishing is all about the tug. The tug is the drug. I could really care less. Sometimes it’s a stick and I get excited, not as excited as a fish but that’s what I’m out here for, is just to enjoy it and have a little fun and that whitefish was definitely fun. In my book, I’d catch them again tomorrow.”
Several people who heard about the new record approached Dietz while we were recording this interview.
“I think the idea of just challenging yourself and getting a world record and he’s local. It was kind of fun to hear about it, read about it and have a chance to talk to him about it,” said Eddie Kula, Bend.
I could tell by Dietz’s ability to double haul cast that he’s got lots of fly-fishing experience which served him well when the big one hit.
“I really like tarpon, bonefish, permit. Also, endo Pacific species like triggerfish, giant trevally, milkfish, barracuda. I’ll fish for anything, doesn’t matter,” Dietz said.
“That was a very impressive fish. From what I heard; it had a 14-inch girth. It was quite a robust fish. They can fight quite well when they get to that size,” Porter said. “Congratulations to Mr. Dietz on his catch.”
“I just want to give a big shout out to my wife right after we had a baby. Glad it all worked out,” Dietz said.