Cut­throat catch breaks 32-year state record

The Weekly Vista - - Community - Staff Re­port

An Arkansas fish­ing mark that had held for nearly 33 years fi­nally fell ear­lier this month when a Kansas an­gler mak­ing an an­nual trek with friends to the White River pulled in a cut­throat trout weigh­ing 10 pounds, 2 ounces. The catch was cer­ti­fied by the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion’s chief of fish­eries to­day.

Mike Bow­ers of Abi­lene, Kan., who said he has fished th­ese wa­ters for longer than the record had held and who makes two or three trips to Arkansas’s north­ern trout streams each year, caught the 26-inch-long trout on a No. 15 baitholder hook with sal­mon eggs in the Nor­fork Tail­wa­ter (North Fork of the White River). He landed it in front of Gene’s Trout Fish­ing Re­sort. At first, he and his fish­ing part­ner, Jack Wick­er­sham, thought Bow­ers had a brown trout on the line be­fore pulling it in and not­ing the dis­tinc­tive cut­throat marks. On­look­ers at Gene’s sensed it was some­thing spe­cial, and the scale on the dock in­di­cated as much.

“Sev­eral of them said, ‘That’s a new state record.’ Those guys all started tak­ing pic­tures and I didn’t know a one of them,” Bow­ers said. “Guys were com­ing down to the dock from out of their cab­ins or float­ing over there to see it.”

The pre­vi­ous record from the White River was 9 pounds, 9 ounces, set Oct. 6, 1985.

“To be hon­est, it didn’t fight real hard,” Bow­ers said. “It was a much older fish, the bi­ol­o­gist said, and it was docile. We drifted down­stream with it nat­u­rally, had the drag out about 70-80 per­cent, I’d feel the drag and I’d pull it back in.”

The trout was caught dur­ing a min­i­mum flow pe­riod on the river, about 12:30 p.m. on Satur­day, Sept. 29. Bow­ers and Wick­er­sham docked im­me­di­ately to weigh the fish and, know­ing it was likely a record-breaker, headed to Mountain Home for of­fi­cial weigh-in with Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion fish­eries bi­ol­o­gists. Christy Gra­ham, the AGFC’s trout man­age­ment pro­gram su­per­vi­sor, cer­ti­fied the weight.

Gra­ham says the cut­throat was con­firmed to be one raised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice’s Nor­fork Na­tional Fish Hatch­ery and stocked in ei­ther 2008 or 2011 — she said there was no way to con­firm which of those years ex­actly.

“It was miss­ing an adi­pose fin, which is a sign of a fish we stocked,” Gra­ham said. “It’s great to see that fish we stocked as re­cently as 7-10 years ago have reached state-record size. We’ve heard lots of re­ports from an­glers about big (20plus inches) cut­throat trout be­ing caught on Nor­fork Tail­wa­ter, and this new record con­firms that it is an ex­cep­tional fish­ery.”

Gra­ham said that, at some point, state records for all four species of trout (rain­bow, brown, cut­throat and brook) have come from the Nor­fork Tail­wa­ter. The AGFC’s cur­rent cut­throat trout min­i­mum length limit on the Nor­fork Tail­wa­ter of 24 inches (one fish per day) took ef­fect Jan. 1 of this year, and should help pro­tect and grow larger fish.

Bow­ers said he plans to have the record fish mounted by a taxi­der­mist with a nat­u­ral bed mount to re­sem­ble the bot­tom of the Nor­fork Tail­wa­ter. He said he and the 29 other friends from coast-to-coast that were mak­ing a long week­end of fish­ing out of Gene’s Re­sort for the 18th straight year pride them­selves on turn­ing most of their catch back to the river. He hooked the fish in the mouth and said a pair of for­ceps could have re­moved the hook and it could have been re­leased. How­ever, the age of the fish and the stress it seemed to have en­dured that af­ter­noon, Bow­ers said, made this one a keeper that many peo­ple can mar­vel at for­ever.

“Surely that’s a once-ina-life­time deal,” he said. “It’s a beau­ti­ful fish.”

Photo sub­mit­ted

Mike Bow­ers of Abi­lene, Kan., caught the record-break­ing Cut­throat trout, break­ing a record held nearly 33 years, last week­end. Bow­ers said he has fished the North Fork of the White River for longer than the record had held and makes two or three trips to Arkansas’s north­ern trout streams each year.

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