In what is becoming a nearly annual rite of late-winter passage, the Idaho state record for yellow perch has once again been broken at Lake Cascade.
A big congratulations to angler Skye Coulter, who wrestled a massive, 2.96-pound perch through the ice Feb. 26. Coulter probably had a hard time fitting the monster through his ice-fishing hole — the fish measured 15.63 inches long and had an incredible 13.25-inch girth, making her nearly as big around as she was long.
I say she because Coulter’s fish, like most record-sized perch, was a female full of eggs. Late winter and early spring, just before ice-off, is prime time for record-hunting. That’s when the big, egg-bearing females are at their heaviest possible weight. And Skye was lucky enough to hook the whopper, and skillful enough to successfully land her. It takes both of those elements to catch the fish of a lifetime.
“I got lucky,” Coulter told the Statesman. “Me, my dad and a friend were out there fishing (at Lake Cascade). We go almost every weekend. It’s all I do all winter.”
That persistence paid off. Coulter’s fish one-upped the 2 pound, 11.68-ounce beauty hauled in by Tia Wiese in 2014 — a fish that in 2015 was confirmed as a new world record for tip-up ice fishing.
“I’ve caught them longer before, at 16 inches, they’ve just never been that big around,” said Coulter, who plans to have a trophy mounted to commemorate his historic catch. “It’s pretty neat. I’ve been trying to catch that fish for 10 years. I knew there was one out there somewhere.”
The teenaged Wiese also is back in the record books for a 16-inch perch she recently caught and released at Cascade. The catch-and-release record program is a new initiative being debuted by Idaho Fish and Game this year, and 13 different species have been submitted thus far. A clearly photographed measurement, a photo of the angler with the fish and a witness to the catch, measurement and release of the fish are all that’s needed to submit a catch-and-release record.
All this talk about monster perch made me curious, so I did some digging. Upon closer inspection, Coulter’s fish is even more impressive. The perch just missed the magical 3-pound mark, which, according to my online research, has only been topped in seven states — Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.
According to the International Game Fish Association, the all-tackle world record for perch is a 4-pound, 3-ounce behemoth caught by Dr. C. Abbott in 1865 — making it the longest-standing freshwater fishing record on file at the IGFA.
A four-pound perch would be quite an anomaly, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lucky Idaho angler break the 3-pound barrier. There is still fishable ice at Cascade this season, and who knows? Next week or next year, a fish — maybe even the 16-incher released by Wiese — could very well come through the ice and rewrite the record books all over again.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors@ idahostatesman.com.