CLEARWATER COUNTY, Idaho — A monster trout caught below Dworshak Dam in July has been deemed a rainbow following DNA analysis.
That makes the 28-pound, 9-ounce fish the largest rainbow trout legally caught in Idaho. However, Tui Moliga of Lapwai won’t land his name in the state record books for the fish.
Moliga, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, caught the fish below Dworshak Dam at a time the river wasn’t open under state rules to harvest of rainbow trout longer than 20 inches. But the area was open under tribal rules.
After he caught the fish, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials faced a pair of dilemmas regarding his request to have it considered as a state record. First, they were unsure if the fish was a true rainbow trout, or Kamloops rainbow trout. Kamloops have their own category in the state record book. The existing rainbow record is 20 pounds, 2 ounces, while the kamloops record tops 37 pounds.
Second, they were unsure if Moliga could qualify for the book since he harvested a fish that would not have been available for non-tribal members to keep. The second dilemma was quickly settled when Fish and Game officials, in consultation with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, determined record book rules imply all candidate fish must have been caught in compliance with existing state of Idaho fishing rules.
The first dilemma took some lab work to untangle. Joe DuPont, regional fisheries manager for Fish and Game at Lewiston, said Moliga’s catch tested out as belonging to the Trout Lodge strain of rainbows that is marketed as a variety of Kamloops. However, the state’s geneticist found members of the Trout Lodge strain are more closely aligned with native coastal rainbow trout then they are with the Gerrard Strain of Kamloops from the Kootenai Lake Drainage in British Columbia, Canada.
“We would probably consider that fish a rainbow,” DuPont said. “If it was in an area you could keep those fish, it would have likely qualified for a state record.”
Moliga previously said it would be nice to have his name in the book but he isn’t upset by the decision. He feels the same way even after learning the fish is a rainbow and the difference between state and tribal rules is all that is keeping him out.
“It’s not a big deal to me. Like I said before, it doesn’t change the fact that I was able to catch a real big trout,” he said.
DuPont said state fisheries officials are taking a look at the record book rules and asking themselves if there should be different categories for rainbow trout, Kamloops and steelhead.
“Does it really make sense to have Kamloops, steelhead and rainbow records? They are all rainbows and it is not always clear what strain they are,” he said. “Maybe in the future we will have just one rainbow record.”