A huge bull trout that could be the largest ever recorded in Oregon — and maybe the world — was caught and released at Lake Billy Chinook last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday.
Ryan Mejaski of Bend and Joe Wilhite were fishing for kokanee on the Deschutes arm of Lake Billy Chinook. ODFW said they weren’t having much luck and moved spots.
After casting into a group of small kokanee that were jumping to the surface, Mejaski’s lure dropped about five feet. Then something grabbed the line and took off.
After about ten minutes working on the fish on a 6-pound test line, Mejaski had the fish caught.
- The Great Outdoors: Fishing for bull trout at Lake Billy Chinook
- The Great Outdoors: Bull Trout poaching on Metolius River angers officials
It was a bull trout that was 33.5 inches long and 26-inches in girth. ODFW said it maxed out Wilhite’s fishing net scale at 25 pounds. ODFW said Mejaski suspects it may have been closer to 30 pounds.
After taking some photos of the evidence, they threw the fish back.
“I’m a little bummed out we didn’t keep it so we could get the official record, but it was the right thing to do at the time. We really didn’t think about keeping it, we were so excited,” Mejaski told ODFW.
The current state record for bull trout also happened on Lake Billy Chinook. A 23-pound, 2-ounce trout was caught in 1989.
The wold record came in 1949 with a 32-pound bull trout caught on Lake Pend Orielle in Idaho.
ODFW said the trout Mejaski and Wilhite nabbed is still out there to spawn and may grow bigger.
ODFW adds “If the anglers had kept the fish, ODFW could use fish scales near the dorsal fin, or an inner ear bone called an otolith to determine age as well. Out of fairness, the fish would have to have been weighed by a third party to be considered for the state record. That would have meant keeping and of course killing the fish.”