Ten-year-old Kazen Cromar was quick to grab a bobbing ice-fishing rod on Henry’s Lake in Island Park, Idaho, in early December.
His swift action paid off when he lifted out a 22-inch brook trout that broke Idaho’s catch-and-release record. Less than a week earlier the record was set by a 21-inch brook trout pulled from the same frozen lake. Cromar made sure that record wasn’t held for long.
He said he beat his father, Charles Cromar, to the rod and fought the behemoth 5-pound brook trout for some time.
“It was kind of hard to pull it up,” Kazen said.
In a matter of several weeks Henry’s Lake produced three record catch-and-release brook trout and one brookie that was a rival for the state record catch-and-keep. That 6-pound brookie was shy of the state record of a little over 7 pounds, caught in 1978 at Henry’s Lake.
Catch-and-release records are new to 2016, so it’s to be expected that records would be shattered in short order. But seeing the records for brookies jump up, all coming out of Henry’s Lake, is eye-opening to fish management there.
Damon Keen, Idaho Fish and Game regional fisheries biologist, manages the lake. Though ice fishing season ended Jan. 1, Keen’s work is not over.
For the next several weeks he and others will snowmobile the lake and take dissolved oxygen readings, then workers will begin trapping cutthroat trout to harvest eggs for stocking.
When the spring thaw comes, Keen said biologists will begin gillnetting the lake. Through that process biologists net fish and record their sizes and weights, extrapolating out to estimate fish populations in the lake.
He said the lake is typically netted about 50 times per year. That’s much more than other Idaho bodies of water, which are gill netted around five or 10 times per year, Keen said.
Keen said Henry’s is well studied and biologists have accurate estimates for fish and can stock the lake to make sure the healthiest — not to mention biggest — fish survive.
“It’s just a super productive lake. And it’s a shallow lake so it’s nutrient rich allowing fish to grow fast,” Keen said.
Keen said netting produced fewer fish than biologists wanted last spring, contributing to the big fish in the lake. He said the goal is to keep the ecosystem healthy, but also make sure anglers can pull out big fish.
He estimated that about 70 percent of ice-fishers are catch-and-release anglers. That leaves plenty of large fin-fare for next year.
It’s an opportunity Charles Cromar said he will take advantage of.
“Last year (the fish) were a little smaller,” Cromar said. “They’re making a comeback. A lot of the blame is on ice-fishing management; they changed the way they’re stocking things and the fish are starting to get big again.”
The cold December day the Cromars reeled in the record-breaker, Charles Cromar said other anglers were pulling out rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and hybrids weighing up to 8 pounds. But Kazen came away with the lunker brookie.
In a video of Kazen’s astounding angling prize, he can be heard letting out a whoop of joy as the brook trout comes through his ice hole.
“Don’t stop pulling, that’s a brook,’ ” Charles Cromar said in the video. “… Dude you’re on the record book.”