JoAn Neumayer of Pinedale said there’s nothing fishy about Wyoming’s record for golden trout, a monster fish twice the size of any other of the species in recent memory.
After all, she was there as a child when the fish was caught in Upper Cook Lake in the Wind River mountains 1948, she told Cowboy State Daily.
The fish “hit really hard, and he fought really hard. He almost got away,” Neumayer said.
Her father, Joseph R. Hicks, was a fishing guide and knew the Cook Lakes held some monster golden trout, she said. The man credited with the catch, C.S. Reed of Omaha, Nebraska, was one of many clients her father took up to the lakes in hopes of landing one of the whoopers.
Neumayer reached out to Cowboy State Daily in response to a story about how Wyoming’s golden trout record is considered by many to be suspect.
It’s not a fish story, she said.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s list of fishing records credits the largest golden trout to C.S. Reed, caught in Cook Lake in Sublette County in 1948. The fish is listed at 11 pounds, 4 ounces.
Mark Smith, Game and Fish assistant fisheries management coordinator, previously told Cowboy State Daily that his agency has no official written records or photos of Reed’s catch.
What’s more, the fish’s recorded size is about twice as big as even the largest golden trout that have been seen in Wyoming in recent years, he added.
Neumayer provided Cowboy State Daily with photo from Field & Stream magazine, which shows images of Reed, the fish and the tackle he used.
“He got an award from Field & Stream because he used their gear to catch that fish,” she said.
Game and Fish doesn’t list an exact date for Reed’s catch. Neumayer said she can’t recall the date either.
“I do remember it was in the summertime, probably July or August,” she said.
The Field & Stream image hails Reed’s catch as the “new world record” for golden trout. It lists the fish at 11 pounds, 28 inches long and 16 inches in girth.
‘Almost As Wide As They Were Long’
There was a time when the Cook Lakes had plenty of golden trout in that size range, Neumayer said. In fact, the monster goldens were one of the biggest draws for her father’s guiding business.
“Dad usually took every client he had up there, because they’d heard about the golden trout and they wanted to go after them,” she said. “So, he’d take them up there and let them catch two or three.”
The lakes were fed directly from a glacier and the cold, clear water was perfect for golden trout, she said. There was ample food for them, mostly bugs and leeches.
“They were really fat, almost as wide as they were long,” Neumayer said.
Cold high-altitude lakes are ideal habitat for golden trout, which are originally from California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Smith said. People transplanted golden trout to Wyoming and elsewhere across the West during the 1920s and 1930s.
Other species of trout can out-compete them, Smith said.
As to why the Cook Lakes no longer produce monster golden trout, Neumayer it’s because brook trout were introduced into the stream below the lakes and knocked the golden trout back.
“Dad tried to tell Game and Fish, ‘Don’t put brookies in there,’” Neumayer said. “When you plant brookies in a stream, they’ll go up toward the head of it, and they won’t stop until they get there, but they wouldn’t listen to him.”
In the Field and Stream image, Reed is holding a bent fishhook.
The record golden trout did that, and it’s a testament to just how strong and determined the fish was, Neumayer said.
“The fish really fought hard to bend the hook like that,” she said, adding that it took everything Reed had to land his record-winner.
“And this was a big man. He was probably 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4,” Neumayer said.
She said they use her father’s portable fish scale to get the fish’s weight and passed the information along to Field & Stream.
All these years later, she said it’s great to set the record straight on Wyoming’s largest-ever golden trout.
“It’s not just a big fish story,” she said. “It really happened.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.