Although not native to Colorado, brook trout have certainly proven that they can grow to immense sizes in the state’s rivers, lakes, and streams. This week, one angler reeled in an incredible brookie that broke the state record for the third time this year weighing in at 8.56 pounds on an official scale. You can learn more about the catch, below!
As Colorado Parks and Wildlife celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2022, it may be long remembered as the year of the brook trout.
Only five months after CPW certified a new state record brook trout for the first time in 75 years, the record was again reestablished by Matt Smiley of Lake City. He caught an 8-pound, 9-ounce brook trout on Oct. 8 from Waterdog Lake, located on the east side of Lake City in Hinsdale County within the Uncompahgre National Forest.
The fish measured 26.25 inches in length and had a girth of 16 inches.
“The experience of this catch has been surreal, and it took a few days to soak in. It’s a really special fish,” Smiley said. “The toughest thing for me with this whole deal was deciding to keep the fish. I’ve released so many over the years, but it was one of those deals where I made a quick decision and wanted to give this fish the recognition it deserves.”
In May, Tim Daniel of Granby reeled in a 7.84-pound brook trout from Monarch Lake in Grand County. That fish, measured at 23.25 inches with a girth of 15.375 inches, broke the previous state record of 7.63 pounds from a brook trout caught in 1947 out of Upper Cataract Lake in Summit County. That had been the longest-standing fishing record in the state.
Since Daniel’s catch May 23, the record has actually been broken twice, with both caught at Waterdog Lake.
The weekend before Smiley’s triumph, Larry Vickers of Lake City had caught an 8.22-pound brook trout. While Vickers knew he had a record fish, he opted not to go through the certification process and decided to eat it to not let the meat go to waste. CPW aquatic biologist Dan Brauch was notified of the catch, and word spread across the region.
Smiley, who sells tackle for the company Favorite Fishing, has chased large brook trout in lakes across Colorado for a decade. He was eager to get in the high country for some fall fishing, and Vickers’ catch was stuck in his mind. So, he set up the Waterdog Lake trail with a 3.9-mile hike and 2,400 feet of elevation gain between him and the lake nestled in the timberline bowl beneath Mesa Seco at 11,130 feet.
After a day of catching smaller fish, Smiley was about ready to pack up and head home to watch college football. But 20 seconds after he had that thought, he felt the tug of a large fish on his Favorite Fishing Jackhammer rod and set the hook on his artificial lure.
“After fishing for a bit and only seeing smaller fish, I thought I wasn’t going to see any really good ones,” Smiley said. “But then the rod got heavy, I set my hook and could tell I had a really big fish…”
Read the rest of the interview and CPW release, here!