Biologist Catches Trout He Stocked in 1983

For St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a story about an angler who definitely experienced a wee bit ‘o Irish luck—even though we have know idea of his ancestry.

While ice fishing at Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Bill Wengert, a 35-year veteran biologist with the state’s Game and Fish Department, reeled in a tagged lake trout that he helped stock at the impoundment in April 1983.

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“What is really amazing about this whole event is that I may have actually clipped the fins on this very fish and I know I was driving the barge when the fish were stocked, nearly 25 years ago,” Wengert told the Casper (Wyo.) Tribune.

Wengert, who has spent decades observing the finer details of fish, said he immediately noticed the trout’s clipped right pelvic fin, which indicated it was hatchery broodstock. When he further examined historical stocking data, he found that the fish was released on April 14, 1983—along with 11,655 other lake trout that day at Buckboard Bay.

Even though the catch was historic and exciting for the biologist, the fish and its size proved somewhat disappointing.

The less-than-robust Mackinaw trout weighed 2.5 pounds and measured 23 inches. Another trout released at the same time and caught in 2004 weighed 17.1 pounds and measured 34 inches.

“Some fish are programmed, if you will, to be large and others small,” he said. “That applies to fish from wild populations to those reared in a fish hatchery. There was plenty of food for this one lake trout to eat when it was stocked 25 years ago and it only grew to be 2 1/2 pounds.”

Wengert said the trout was probably 26 years old because it spent a year in a hatchery before being released.

He said he hoped his catch would give fishery folks “an opportunity to learn more about fish genetics, age and growth of lake trout in the reservoir.”

Of course, that’s exactly what you’d expect a biologist to say. You don’t think he’d say anything about corn meal batter and a hot frying pan, now did you?