Cascade — Luke Spaete didn't win Tackle Tom's ice fishing derby at Lake Cascade, but he got a pretty good consolation prize the new state record perch.
Spaete's fish weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces and measured 15 and 1/2 inches, topping the old record of 2 pounds, 9.6 ounces and 15 1/2 inches that was first set in 1976 and tied in 2012. The fish that tied the record was also caught at Lake Cascade.
It was not a case of beginner's luck. Spaete has spent about 10 days fishing at Lake Cascade, and also hosted the Hardwater Classic ice fishing derby on Jan. 25. Spaete and other ice anglers have consistently been pulling fish over 2 pounds from the reservoir, and it's been expected for several years the reservoir would produce the next state record.
Spaete was fishing Saturday during the tournament and had landed a couple "jumbo" perch that Cascade has been consistently producing in recent years. He already landed a 13 1/2-inch and 14-inch perch when he saw a big fish appear on his fish finder at about 25 feet depth.
"All of the sudden all the little ones went away, and this giant mark showed up," he said. "It was one giant blob, and I thought 'don't miss this one.'"
The fish hit his jig, which had a small, light hook, and Spaete said he worried the hook might straighten before he got the fish to the surface. When he pulled it through the ice "it's belly and dorsal fin were scraping the sides the 8-inch hole," he said.
He knew it was a big fish, but "I really didn't think of it being a state record."
Later that day, he weighed the fish at Tackle Tom's and owner Tom McGlashen knew it was.
"I did the classic double take," McGlashen said. "I said 'holy cow, we got a new state record.'"
But the scale at Tackle Tom's wasn't certified, so they took the fish down the street to local grocery store D9, which has certified scales.
McGlashen said he wasn't surprised to see a new record after the old one was tied two years ago, but there was a lull last winter and no fish came close. However, McGlashen said he saw lots of big perch being caught over the summer, and winter is typically when fish are the heaviest because females are heavy with eggs and also voraciously feeding.
In the old saying "timing is everything," Gary Wiese of Eagle caught a perch on Sunday that also broke the old state record, but did not top Spaete's new record fish.
McGlashen said he wouldn't be surprised to see a bigger perch caught before ice fishing season ends. There's still about a month before the fish spawn, and they will be gaining weight until then. But on the other hand, the old record has only been tied once and topped twice in 38 years, so you never know.