River Monster! The Largest Brook Trout Ever Caught in Idaho

Brook Trout feeding
© Dec Hogan/Shutterstock.com

Written by Rebecca Mathews

Updated: September 12, 2023

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Setting a state record for the largest fish is a worthy feat! Brook trout are not the largest fish, but a lot of their state records were set decades ago. The largest brook trout ever caught in Idaho was hooked in 1978! Surely it’s time to smash it? Brook trout are exciting game fish; they are very popular in the States. Specialist tackle is not required, just patience and some knowledge. Learn all about Idaho’s brook trout right here, and set yourself up for a record-breaking catch this year.

The record brook trout in Idaho was just over 7 pounds.

Brook Trout: Species Overview

Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) are freshwater fish in the salmon family. They’re native to eastern North America and Canada, but because they are such great game fish (and delicious eating fish), they were introduced to most of North America in the mid-19th century.

Expected Size

Average brook trout weight in the U.S. ranges between 0.66 and 6.61 pounds and 9.8 to 25.6 inches long. Anything over this is considered a prize fish and worth an official weigh-in. The largest brook trout live in the Great Lakes, where they can exceed 25 inches and 10 pounds. Brook trout can live for seven years but grow according to the abundance of diet, water temperature, and season length.

Appearance

Brook trout are dark green or brown in color with handsome marbling on their back, tail, and dorsal fins that contrast with a reddish belly. Often, red dots and blue halos sprinkle the flanks, and white flashes margin their fins. The attractive appearance is one of the top reasons anglers like to fish for brook trout.

Diet

Brook trout may look pretty, but they are voracious carnivores that will eat a wide variety of prey. Young brookies eat aquatic larvae, drowned insects, and mollusks, but adults will eat anything that fits in their mouths.

This includes flies, grasshoppers, ants, beetles, crickets, frogs, and even unfortunate voles that venture too close to the water’s edge. Brook trout are adept at lunging up riversides to grab prey, much like crocodiles in an African watering hole!

Habitat

Brook trout are not native to Idaho but are numerous and very popular game fish there.

A brook trout’s favored environment is cold and clean fresh water, and they grow to larger sizes in colder water. Because they are generally smaller than other trout species and therefore prone to predation, brook trout live in isolated waterways away from rainbow or brown trout-heavy areas.

They thrive in isolated rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds with clean water. Brook trout do not tolerate brackish or muddy waters because they need high oxygen levels. The best temperature water for brook trout is 44 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures cause stress responses and smaller-sized adults.

Brook Trout

The brook trout has a speckled appearance.

©Slowmotion GLI/Shutterstock.com

The Largest Brook Trout Ever Caught in Idaho

According to the Idaho Fish and Game Office, the largest brook trout ever caught in Idaho weighed 7.06 pounds and measured 23.5 inches long. Its girth was 15.5 inches. DeVere Stratton hooked this record breaker at Henrys Lake on 16 August 1978, and the record still stands over 40 years later!

The Largest Brook Trout Ever Caught

Dr. J. W. Cook holds the honor of catching the largest brook trout ever. He hooked a massive 14.5-pound, 31.5-inch long brook trout in the Rabbit Rapids of the Nipigon River in Northern Ontario during a week-long fishing trip in 1915. Unfortunately, he didn’t weigh the fish immediately, and it began to decompose before anyone set official scales. It most likely weighed over 20 pounds.

That said, even with the weight loss, it’s certain Dr. Cook would not have expected his record catch to last over 100 years.

And it nearly didn’t!

In 2006, Tim Matheson caught a brook trout during the Manitoba Fish’n’Win tournament in Barbe Lake. It measured 29 inches long and 21 inches in girth. Using the brook trout weight calculation formula, this epic trout could have weighed 20 pounds, but it’s not a world record because Mr. Matheson returned it to the water alive. It is, however, Manitoba’s state record, and Mr. Matheson has received praise throughout the fishing world for his compassionate attitude to conservation.

Idaho Neighbor State Records

Is Idaho’s state record brook trout a large fish compared to its neighbors? What are Idaho’s state neighbors reeling in?

Richard Baker hooked a 5-pound, 10-inch long brook trout in Nevada back in 1980, but Utah’s record brook trout weighed in at 7.8 pounds. That hefty fish was caught in 1971 on Boulder Mountain. Wyoming fares a little better. Its state record for brook trout is a 9.11 pound, 24.5 long inches. Max Long snagged it at Green River Lake, Sublette County back in 1976.

Seems that the largest brook trout caught in the northwest were all hooked decades ago! That isn’t to say the northwest has a shortage of brook trout because smaller brook trout are regularly caught there. Surely it’s time for a new brook trout record?

Best Method to Catch Brook Trout

Anglers agree that brook trout are easy to catch. You don’t really need heavy-duty tackle because they are smaller than many game fish. The hardest part is traveling to the isolated, clean, cold-water areas they prefer to inhabit.

Bait

Brook trout will eat just about anything, so it’s up to you if you use artificial lures or bait. Anglers use waxworms, earthworms, maggots, minnows, or lures that resemble mayflies or caddis flies.

Many brook trout are caught fly fishing on streamers or nymphs on the river bottom.

Timing

They are most active at dawn and dusk and tend to retreat into deeper water in the heat of the day. Brook trout prefer cold water and avoid sun-soaked spots.

Where

Try fast-moving cold streams, clear water lakes, and healthy fresh ponds. Brook trout are widely distributed in Idaho. Any clean, cold water with insects or minnows present with cover from predators, such as overhanging trees, submerged trunks, or bridge supports, are good spots.

Beneath overhanging trees are excellent places to fish for brook trout because they dart from deeper water to grab insects that have fallen from the branches.

Gear

Brook trout enthusiasts suggest a six-foot spinning rod, 4-6-pound monofilament line, and size 8 bait hooks. Add 1/16 oz spinners, red and white bobbers, plus a few worms, and you’re all set! Special gear isn’t required.

Brook trout prefer cold, clean streams in remote areas.

©Rob McKay/Shutterstock.com

Brook Trout Fishing in Idaho

Henry’s Lake, where Idhao’s largest ever brook trout was caught in 1978, is a popular brook trout fishing destination. There’s a hatchery there to keep the population high, and rangers report that brook trout make up 21% of the population.

Other hot spots for brook trout include:

  • Salmon River
  • Boise River, South Fork
  • Silver Creek
  • Stanley Lake
  • Saddleback Lakes
  • Trail Creek Lake
  • Alice Lake
  • And the aptly named Fish Hook Lake

These angler paradise locations regularly produce good-sized brook trout alongside salmon, crappie, bluegill, catfish, grayling, sunfish, and bass.

Idaho’s Largest Ever Brook Trout

Let’s remind ourselves of the largest brook trout ever caught in Idaho!

DeVere Stratton caught Idaho’s state-record brook trout in 1978 in Henry’s Lake. It weighed a hefty 7.06 pounds, just a touch over what is considered a large average brook trout size. DeVere’s brook trout was 23.5 inches long and 15.5 inches in girth.  

Incredibly, this record has stood for over 40 years, but that’s not even half as long as the official world record for brook trout. Dr. Cook hauled that river monster from the Nipigon River in Northern Ontario in 1915. After several day’s decompositions, it still weighed 14.5 pounds and measured 31.5 inches long!

Where Is Henrys Lake Located on a Map?

Situated in eastern Idaho, Henrys Lake is a diminutive alpine lake characterized by its shallow depth, covering an expanse of around 8 square miles, with a length of 4 miles and a width of 2 miles. At the same time, its surface is elevated at 6,472 ft above sea level.

Here is Henrys Lake on a map:


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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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