BY JOHN KRUSE
LOON LAKE, Wash. – This story starts on June 26 of 2021 on a dock at Loon Lake in northeastern Washington. Caylun Peterson and his daughter were staying at the family cabin and had gotten up early to go fishing. Caylun cast a nightcrawler out and was rewarded with a huge trout that took the bait. After a hard-fought battle where the fish nearly took all of the line off of Peterson’s reel, he was able to get the fish to shore.
The fish was a tiger trout, a sterile breed that is a cross between an eastern brook trout and a German brown trout. Since they don’t produce viable eggs, they are focused on feeding and can grow to be quite hefty. The trout Caylun reeled in was literally the biggest tiger trout anyone had ever seen. Caylun was actually going to release the fish but a neighbor and his mother, Cathy Clegg, both convinced him not to because it could be a new state record.
They were right. That tiger trout ended up weighing nearly 24½ pounds, handily beating the previous 18.5-pound state record caught out of Bonaparte Lake. It also beat the long standing 20-pound, 13-ounce world record tiger trout caught out of Lake Michigan back in 1978. This was the fish of a lifetime, caught out of a lake known not only for tiger trout, but also a sizeable population of kokanee, warm-water fish and a previous state record lake trout.
Fast forward to August 7, 2022. Cathy Clegg and Caylun were again fishing at the south end of Loon Lake off the family cabin dock. Cathy cast out a hook with a couple of nightcrawlers on it and no weight, allowing it to slowly sink towards the bottom which was 25 feet deep. Cathy said she had set her rod into a pole holder mounted on the end of her dock. Shortly after she did Cathy said, “Something was hitting it like crazy and I just ran up, grabbed it as fast as I could and I’m starting to reel and this huge fish jumps all the way out of the water!”
Cathy continued, “I managed, thankfully, to get that thing in and my son grabbed the net and helped me get it onto the dock. Caylun then looked at the fish and the first thing he said was, “It’s a world record, Mom, we’ve got to turn this thing in!”
Finding a certified scale to weigh the fish on turned out to not be so easy. The first place they went to in Deer Park was not open. The second place they went to had a scale but it had not been certified in the last 12 months, making it ineligible for an official weigh-in.
Next, they contacted Michlitch, a Spokane-based company specializing in spices and seasonings. They were happy to oblige and when the fish was taken there the trout weighed 27.42 pounds on their certified scale, beating Caylun’s world record fish by nearly 3 pounds.
They next took the fish to the regional Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office where Staci Lehman, the Public Information Officer there, said officials measured the massive trout and found it was 35.5 inches long and had a girth of 28 1/8 inches. Lehman said the fish is pending approval as a state record and Clegg said she would be filling out the application to make this the new world record.
As for the rod and reel used, Cathy said it was a Cabela’s Whuppin’ Stick casting rod paired with an Okuma Magda level wind reel that was spooled with heavy line. Coincidently, Caylun was also using an Okuma reel, albeit a spinning reel, when he hooked his record fish in the summer of 2021. According to Cathy, “He just really trusts their equipment.”
Asked about the big tiger trout in the lake, Lehman told me, “The consensus from area fish biologists is that kokanee are driving the growth of big tiger trout in Loon Lake. While that hasn’t been examined closer at this time, it makes sense.”
I asked Cathy if she thought this record would be broken out of Loon Lake again. She replied, “I definitely think it will be broken… every year the tiger trout get bigger and bigger, and I don’t think they’ve limited out yet.” Cathy did caution though, “We average maybe one tiger trout per year of any size, so they’re far and few between out there.”
In other words, this world record might stand for a while, but if it is broken again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s caught off that cabin dock at Loon Lake by another family member.
John Kruse is the host and producer of Northwestern Outdoors Radio (www.northwesternoutdoors.com) and America Outdoors Radio (www.americaoutdoorsradio.com) and is the author of the Washington Outdoors Report.