When it come to landing Wyoming trophy fish, Owen Schaad said he’s just getting started.
Schaad, a Cheyenne resident, recently broke the state record for tiger trout when he landed a beast of a specimen from Viva Naughton Reservoir Kemmerer.
The fish’s official measurements came it at 11.93 pounds, 31 inches in length and a girth of 16.5 inches, breaking a record for the species that had stood since 2012.
And his fishing career has only just begun. He graduated this spring from Cheyenne Central High School and is looking forward to many more years of angling.
He told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that his next goal is to land all of the species for Wyoming’s cutthroat trout “grand slam.”
Rare Catch Indeed
Catching any tiger trout, much less a record-setting monster, is an impressive feat.
Tiger trout are brown trout/brook trout hybrid. They can’t reproduce, and fisheries biologists say they’re extremely rare.
But even at a relatively tender age, Schaad knows his fish well, so he recognized what he had the second he got a good look at his catch in the net.
“Right away I noticed the orange color on its stomach and the markings on its tail,” he said.
It Was Already A Good Day
Schaad said he was about halfway through a day of fishing from shore and had already caught 15-20 fish when he felt something huge hit his line.
And so began a 20-minute battle to land the lunker.
“I immediately just started screaming. I knew that it was a big fish from the start,” he said.
But it was nothing like what he’d expected.
“I thought it was a big brown trout,” he said. “But a massive tiger trout? I didn’t expect that.”
No Catch-And-Release This Time
Schaad usually practices catch-and-release angling. But he knew he had to keep the huge tiger trout.
“If it might be a record, you have to keep the fish and get official measurements,” he said. “They won’t accept you just taking your own measurements.”
He also kept a few other fish that he’d “gut hooked” that day, which wouldn’t have survived.
“I’m not the type to kill a fish and just throw it back,” he said.
He and his family got to eat the smaller fish. But the record-setting tiger had to be delivered whole to a taxidermist in Colorado.
“I won’t get it back for a year,” he said. “There’s just one guy working at that taxidermy shop, so that’s why it will take so long.”
When asked what his next angling goal is, Schaad didn’t hesitate.
“I want to complete the Wyoming cutthroat trout grand slam,” he said. “I’ve already caught the Colorado cutthroat,” which despite its name, dwells in some Wyoming streams.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s “Cutt-Slam” requires anglers to land and get a clear photo of each cutthroat trout species found in the Cowboy State: the Colorado cutthroat, Yellowstone cutthroat, Snake River cutthroat and Bonneville cutthroat.
As to what gear he used to catch and land the record tiger trout, Schaad’s not saying.
“That’s a tight-kept secret,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.