Ok, what are the chances when your out on the water that you end up catching a fish that is older than you are? Probably, very improbable. However, as Brett Prettyman writes in the Salt Lake Tribune, it can be done! I would like to thank Brett for sharing this story with us here at Idaho Fishin’ Talk. Take a look at this!
Anglers usually describe the fish they catch by length, weight or numbers, but Jacob Brewer of Layton found a new way after landing a lake trout at Bear Lake last week: age.
Brewer caught the trout, which was 33 inches long and about 9 or 10 pounds, during a fishing trip to northern Utah on Nov. 7. When he got the fish to the boat he noticed an orange tag with the number 0275 stuck in the dorsal fin.
Brewer recorded the number and color of the tag, took a photo with the fish and then put it back in the lake. Returning home, Brewer contacted Scott Tolentino, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ Bear Lake Project leader.
Upon hearing that the fish sported an orange tag, Tolentino immediately knew it was an older fish, but when he saw the picture he knew it was truly an old-timer.
“Lake trout are similar to humans in that the cartilage continues to grow throughout their lives,” he said. “People get larger ears and noses as they get older. With the old lake trout you see exceptionally large fins in proportion to the body length. I could tell by looking at its fins it was old.”
Tolentino checked records and discovered the fish received the tag, by Tolentino himself, after being caught in a gill net in September 1993. So the fish was at least 16 years old. But that old lake trout was about to get even older.
Brewer’s fish had also been marked by biologists when it was released into the lake by having its left pelvic fin
and adipose fin clipped off. Wildlife officials only used those exact clippings on one age class of fish, which was hatched in 1972 and placed into the lake in 1973.
The fish Brewer caught was more than 37 years old, Tolentino said, 11 years older than the angler who caught it.
Tolentino said it is common for lake trout in Bear Lake to reach ages over 25 due to the cold water and low food supply. The lake trout, cutthroat trout and whitefish in Bear Lake grow slowly as a result.
Tagged fish are common in Bear Lake. Tolentino said biologists from Utah and Idaho — the lake lies in both states –use the tags to track survival and movement of the fish.
Had Brewer kept the tag from his fish, Idaho Fish and Game would have owed him $5. Fisheries officials from that state initiated a program in the mid-1990s that rewarded anglers for turning in tags in hopes of gaining more information. The program was eventually shelved.
“It is encouraging to see lake trout being around for that many years,” Tolentino said. “It is something where we knew the potential was there. This just gives up documentation on how long they can live in Bear Lake.”