Fisherman Listens to Grandpa, Catches Utah State-Record Tiger Trout

“He always told me about those big, beautiful tiger trout that lived there”

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A Utah fisherman with a giant tiger trout.

Kaleb Nelson with the 32-inch tiger trout that set a new Utah state record. <p>Photograph courtesy Kaleb Nelson</p>

Kaleb Nelson has fished Scofield Reservoir southeast of Salt Lake City for most of his life. He’d always known about the lake because he’d heard his grandfather talk about it when he was a kid.

“My grandpa, Brent Nelson, grew up in Clear Creek near Scofield Reservoir, and he always told me about those big, beautiful tiger trout that lived there,” Kaleb tells Outdoor Life. “So, a couple buddies and I decided to ice fish there last December.”

Nelson had fished the lake during both summer and winter, and he knew it well enough to have a pretty good idea of where the trout would be holding. On Dec. 9, he and his friends drilled four holes over a grassy bottom in roughly six feet of water. Nelson’s buddies each picked a hole to fish through while he used two different jigging rods to alternate between the two other holes.

“I had a heavy ice spinning rod set up, and a light-tackle one,” says Nelson, a 22-year-old construction project engineer who lives in Price. “I was just swimming a 3-inch-long white tube jig above some bottom weeds with the light outfit, and wham I got a hit.”

He fought the fish for around 30 minutes and had a pretty good feeling it was big tiger trout — a hybrid species that’s a cross between a brown trout and a brook trout. Fighting a heavy fish for that long is tough on tackle as the line wears on the sharp edges of the ice, but Nelson says the 10-pound braid he was using held up during the battle. The trout took about half of that line off his spinning reel during one of its longer runs, and when Nelson finally saw the trout, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to land it.

“When I got the fish near the underside of the 8-inch diameter ice hole I was worried it wouldn’t fit. But my friends were there to help me, so we pulled it through. Then we just started laughing and celebrating [because of] how big it was.”

Read Next: Use Big Baits to Catch Giant Lake Trout Through The Ice

The anglers took a few photos of the trout and taped it at 32 inches long. Then they pulled the jig from its mouth and released it into Scofield Reservoir. The fish was out of the water for only a few minutes and swam away healthy, Nelson says.

Although they never weighed the fish, the anglers estimated it was around 10 pounds. They kept fishing through the afternoon, catching and releasing a dozen smaller tiger trout. Utah regulations allow anglers to keep up two tiger trout per day, with only one over 22 inches, but Nelson says he’s always put the fish back.

A big tiger trout caught through the ice in Utah.
Nelson and his buddies measured and photographed the fish before releasing it back into the lake.

Photograph courtesy Kaleb Nelson

“They are just incredibly beautiful, which is why we release them.”

And since the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources maintains a catch-and-release category in its fishing records book, he was still able to send in an application to the agency for a new state record. (This included photographs showing the trout’s measurements and written verification from a witness.) The DWR announced the catch’s certification Tuesday. Nelson’s 32-inch fish was big enough to replace the standing record, but just barely. It was just half an inch longer than the previous catch-and-release record caught in 2022.

Read Next: State-Record Tiger Trout Disqualified Because Angler Didn’t Have a Fishing License

The DWR maintains a separate list of “catch and keep” records, and the standing record in that category measured over 37 inches long and weighed 19 pounds 2 ounces. That tiger trout was also caught from Scofield Reservoir. For comparison, the IGFA all-tackle world record for the species weighed 27 pounds 6 ounces and was set a couple years ago by an angler in Washington State.

“I’ll have a replica mount made of the fish, and will enjoy looking that big, beautiful trout for a long time to come,” Nelson says. “My grandpa loves them too, and he was more excited than anyone about my catch.”

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