Records aren’t always broken in front of a roaring crowd in a stadium. Sometimes, they are broken casting the simplest of offerings off a dock on a summer morning. That’s exactly what happened on June 26 at Loon Lake in Stevens County, Washington.
Loon Lake is a large body of water, covering some 1,086 acres. Located 26 miles north of Spokane, it’s known for giving up a previous state record lake trout in the 1960s and for being a very good place to catch quality size kokanee salmon. Warmwater species such as perch, bass, and sunfish are also found here, and in recent years tiger trout have been stocked as well. Tiger trout are a relatively new fish to Washington State, a sterile hybrid that’s a cross between a female eastern brook trout and a male German brown trout. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been stocking them in select lakes around the state for 20 years.
With easy access off of U.S. Highway 395 and a couple of well-established resorts, Loon Lake is a popular place to fish for Spokane area residents, including Caylun Peterson, who hails from the Lilac City and has been fishing here on a regular basis every summer since he was a child.
On the early morning of June 26, Caylun was staying at his parents’ lake cabin with his family when his daughter woke him up and asked to go fishing. The two went out to the dock, and Caylun cast a big nightcrawler on a hook with no weight on the line and let it slowly sink to the bottom. About 15 minutes later, he got a bite and set the hook. At first the trout swam towards him, but then it turned and started to run, and Peterson knew he had a very big fish on the line. In fact, he started getting worried he was going to run out of line on his reel and yelled for his wife to get the Sea-Doo ready so they could follow the fish. Before that became necessary, though, the fish tired and stopped its lone line-taking run. Eventually, Peterson was able to reel the fish in.
When Peterson first got the big tiger trout in hand, his first instinct was to release it, thinking if it grew another year and he could catch it again, he might have a record on his hands. However, the fish was bleeding badly, and about that time his mother and a neighbor came outside. Seeing the huge tiger trout Peterson had caught, they both told him they thought the current tiger trout record was around 18 pounds, and he may have beaten that record.
It turns out they were right. The previous Washington record tiger trout was caught in 2015 out of Bonaparte Lake by Kelly Flaherty from Priest River, Idaho. That trout weighed 18.49 pounds. Peterson’s trout, weighed on a certified scale in Deer Park, beat the previous record by exactly six pounds with a weight of 24.49 pounds.
Not only did Peterson’s trout break the Washington State record, but it looks to be an unofficial world record fish as well. The current world record tiger trout, weighing 20 pounds and 13 ounces, was caught by Pete Friedland out of Lake Michigan back in 1978.
Caylun took his trout to the WDFW Eastern Regional Office where it was examined by a fisheries biologist and other staff members on Monday the 28th. Peterson’s trout is now officially the Washington State record tiger trout. He will have to fill out paperwork for the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and submit it for his fish to be certified as the new world record tiger trout.
As for fishing advice? Caylun said he has caught big tiger trout before out of Loon Lake, weighing up to 12 pounds, prior to this catch of a lifetime. Peterson says in his experience,
“They tend to bite first thing in the morning and right before sunset.” Peterson is also a big believer in his method of using bait with no weight which slowly sinks to the bottom. As for what he was using besides that? Nothing fancy. Just an older Shakespeare Ugly Stik fishing rod and Okuma spinning reel.
It’s the sort of story that makes you believe you too might just reel in a record the next time you are casting a line off the dock, out of the boat, or from shore at your local lake. After all, if a regular guy who loves to fish like Caylun Peterson can catch a record, maybe anglers like you and I can, too.