A passion for angling—and a knack for landing unusual fish—has sparked 15-year-old Joe Hagengruber's quest to catch all 87 species of fish in his home state of Montana. Species: Rainbow Trout Photos Courtesy of Dave Hagengruber.
OL: Tell us about your latest species. JH: I caught a slimy sculpin last summer. It’s about 2 to 3 inches and it lives in fast, cold water, and tends to stay under the rocks. I was fishing for trout but I saw a couple of sculpin swimming around and I was using a pretty small hook, so I decided to try to catch one. And I did. Species: Mottled sculpin
Outdoor Life: Where did the idea for this project come from? Joe Hagengruber: I went icefishing with my family when I was seven. Everyone was catching the usual perch and trout. Then I started catching odd fish that no one else was hooking, like suckers, walleyes, and lake whitefish. So I decided maybe I should catch a lot more. Species: Black Crappie
OL: Is there a fish you’ve been trying to catch that has so far eluded you? JH: We’ve fished a bunch of places that have about 10 different types of minnows. I can land those, but I can’t seem to catch a fathead minnow. They’re even in the creek behind my house, which is a little embarrassing. Species: Northern Redbelly Dace
OL: What will you do once you’ve caught every species? JH: I’m going to travel back to the places I like best and start over. My favorite spot is probably in central Montana, where there’s a sort of irrigation ditch the size of a swimming pool right along this big pasture and a huge mountain range. It holds eight or nine different species of minnows. It’s a great fishing hole. Species: Spottail Shiner
OL: Any special rules for your goal? JH: The only rule is that I have to catch them on hook and line. I can’t use a minnow trap or anything like that, although I did build one of those for fun in the creek in my backyard. Species: Paddlefish
The Scoreboard Number of species caught so far: 49
First species ever landed: Rainbow trout
Biggest species: Paddlefish (60 pounds)
Smallest species: Stickleback (1.5 inches)
Favorite fish to eat: Deep-fried perch Species pictured: Brook Stickleback
OL: Is fishing purely a hobby, or do you hope to turn it into a career? JH: I’d really love to get a job working with fish. Biology is the most likely path, because I love handling the fish. I’ve been out a few times with my dad’s friends, who are biologists. They’ll set up big nets and catch walleyes and trout to study. I’m going to start volunteering with them. Species:Brown trout
Species: Pumpkinseed
Species: Rainbow Trout
Species: Pike
Species: Smallmouth Bass
Species: Shovelnose Sturgeon