Angler reels in huge bull trout — that may have broken Oregon record — but released it

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A fisherman reeled in a massive bull trout from an Oregon lake that nearly snapped his rod and maxed out his 25-pound scale, officials said.

Ryan Mejaski tossed the fish back into the water, then realized he may have beat a state or even world record, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said in an April 14 news release.

But it was too late to tell.

Mejaski had been fishing for kokanee with his friend Joe Wilhite on April 8 at Lake Billy Chinook, wildlife officials said.

The two weren’t having much luck, so they moved spots and Mejaski cast into a part of the lake where small kokanee were “jumping to the surface.”

His lure sank about 5 feet, then “he got a big strike that took off screaming.”

After about 10 minutes, he reeled in a massive bull trout that nearly snapped his medium-lightweight rod.

He brought the fish into the boat with a net and measured it. It was 33.5 inches long with a 26-inch girth and weighed more than 25 pounds, Mejaski told wildlife officials.

“The scale was maxed out and didn’t go any higher than 25 pounds but that’s what it said,” he said.

He said it was possible the trout weighed 30 pounds.

Mejaski took photos of the fish and tossed it back into the water. Then he realized the fish could have beat a state or world record, officials said.

The current state record is a 23-pound, 2-ounce bull trout that was caught in Lake Billy Chinook in 1989, wildlife officials said. The world record is a 32-pound bull trout from Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille in 1949.

“I’m a little bummed out we didn’t keep it so we could get the official record, but it was the right thing to do at the time. We really didn’t think about keeping it, we were so excited,” Mejaski said in the release.

Although Mejaski let the fish go, he said the fish can continue to spawn and grow larger.

Biologist Jerry George said this fish could have been over 15 years old. Bull fish can reach 20 years old.

Lake Billy Chinook is about 55 miles north of Bend.

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