Catch-and-release record bull trout caught in the Kootenai River

by Ralph Bartholdt
Staff Writer | April 28, 2020 1:00 AM

A Post Falls man is the latest state catch-and-release record holder for bull trout.

Sawyer Livesey caught the 30 1/2 -inch char April 8 while fishing the Kootenai River near Bonners Ferry. The previous record was a 29-inch fish caught last summer in Lake Pend Oreille by Aaron Fox.

Bull Trout are native to North Idaho waters and are related to brook trout and lake trout — all members of the char family.

The state catch and keep record was also a 32-pound bull trout caught in Lake Pend Oreille in 1949 when harvesting bull trout was legal.

Since then bull trout have been deemed threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of declining numbers across their range, although “current population estimates, number of populations, and range … indicate this species is likely more secure in (Idaho) than the rangewide status indicates,” according to Idaho Fish and Game.

Bull Trout are migratory, often swimming great distances between autumn spawning streams and their wintering grounds, according to Fish and Game. Bull trout are indigenous from Nevada to the Yukon Territories and Alaska. In Idaho they are found in the Boise, Payette and Weiser river drainages north to the Columbia River basin.

Although USFWS listed the species as threatened in 1998 in the Columbia River basin, Idaho adopted a catch-and-release state record program over the past decade that recognizes anglers and their fish without harvesting the fish.

Although USFWS listed the species as threatened in 1998 in the Columbia River basin, a 2004 Fish and Game study estimated Idaho populations at 1.24 million bull trout in the state.

The study found that although populations declined until the early 1990s, they have increased since then.

Idaho adopted a catch and release records system in an effort to recognize anglers and their catches without having to kill the fish.

Fish and Game didn’t say what bait or technique Livesey used to catch his state record fish.