Fat Rainbow Trout Caught from Historic Creek Shatters Maryland State Record

The angler's 30-minute battle with the fish played out just miles upstream of one of the deadliest battlefields in American history
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A fisherman holds up a fat rainbow trout caught from a creek in Maryland.
Jean-Phillipe Lartigue holds up the new Maryland state-record rainbow trout. Photograph courtesy Jean-Phillipe Lartigue

Retired fisheries biologist Jean-Phillipe Lartigue caught a fat rainbow trout from Maryland’s Antietam Creek on Saturday. Measuring more than 30 inches long and weighing 17.44 pounds, Lartigue’s trout shatters the previous state record — a 14.2-pounder caught in 1987.     

Lartigue caught the huge trout from a public stretch of Antietam Creek that flows through Devil’s Backbone Park in Washington County. History buffs will recognize the creek as the site of a pivotal battle that took place during the Civil War. Still considered the bloodiest single-day conflict in American history, the Battle of Antietam was fought just miles downstream of the county park near the town of Sharpsburg.

Waging a different sort of battle altogether, Lartigue fought the giant trout for 30 minutes before he was able to land it on his own. While the avid stream fisherman has caught big trout all over the world, he says the 17-plus-pound rainbow he landed over the weekend was a different animal.

“I’ve caught other big trout to 10 pounds, but this fish was the biggest I’ve taken,” Lartigue tells Outdoor Life. “It jumped twice, and I was very worried about losing it because I was using light 8-pound test line.”

His light-line setup included a specialized 12-foot rod with an extra supple tip paired with a spinning reel. Lartigue added a small split shot to the 8-pound monofilament leader and used a No. 8 hook baited with an earthworm he’d dug out of his own yard in Bethesda.

Lartigue is French but he lived and worked as a biologist in Morocco. Fishing in both Europe and northern Africa, he became an expert on the European technique of dead-drifting flies and natural baits with extra-long rods. These long rods help anglers control their drifts with more precision. Their soft, springy tips also help protect light lines from breaking, which was crucial in helping Lartigue land his record-breaking fish over the weekend.    

“I thought I might lose it as soon as I saw it jump,” he says. “The creek has lots of rocks that it could have cut the line on. There was a bridge over the creek with abutments, so I had to keep the trout away from those too … But after a [long] fight it tired and I was able to move the fish into shallow water, wade out, and grab it.”

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Because he didn’t have a net on him, Lartigue really did have to “grab” the trout, and he cut his fingers on its jaw in the process. By the time he walked back to his car, a crowd of onlookers had already gathered there to gawk at the fat fish. A few of them shared some advice on how to weigh and measure the trout, so Lartigue contacted the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and brought his catch to a certified scale at Ernst’s Country Market in Clear Spring.

The rainbow trout measured 32 inches long and tipped the scales at 17.44 pounds. The DNR’s director of fisheries John Mullican confirmed these measurements and the agency officially declared Lartigue’s fish a new state record on Tuesday.

While some anglers might have chosen to mount the fish or get a replica made, Lartigue went a different route.

“We ate it,” he says, “and it was delicious.”