The ‘biggest fish’ stories of 2021

You might be thinking, “It’s pretty hard to top 2020’s string of record-setting fish,” but then in walks 2021 like the ’27 New York Yankees. This year, anglers from all across the country flocked to Idaho’s numerous fisheries and amounted some incredible new state records, from carp to cutthroat trout.

In total, 2021 had 18 new state records, which included six certified weight records and 12 new catch-and-release records. Making the cut this year are the following angler trophy stories, from Priest Lake to American Falls and everywhere in between.

A load of carp

Catch-and-release state record grass carp.

Cris Endicott poses with his catch-and-release state record grass carp.

Not too long ago, Meridian’s own Cris Endicott landed a whopping 46.7-pound Snake River grass carp on Oct. 10. The grass carp measured 50 inches long and set a new rod/reel certified weight state record for the species. Since 2016, records for carp have been kept separately for rod/reel and archery anglers, and this fish surpassed the current 39.5-pound archery record set by Saige Wilkerson in 2012.

Record cutthroat trout tips scales (and boat) in Priest Lake

Madison Nackos with a westslope cutthroat trout from Priest Lake.

Madison Nackos poses with her record-setting westslope cutthroat trout from Priest Lake.

This time of year, Priest Lake is more suited for ice skating than boating. But back in May 2021, Spokane angler Madison Nackos wound up setting a new catch-and-release state record for a westslope cutthroat trout that tipped both the scales and the boat. Coming in at an impressive 24 inches, the westslope cutty beat out the previously held record of 21 inches set back in 2020 by Tom Weadick.

Westslope cutthroat trout are native to Idaho and can be found in both lakes and streams throughout Idaho’s Panhandle Region and throughout central Idaho’s Clearwater and Salmon river systems.

Everything’s just perchy

Adam Mann holds up his record perch from Cascade Reservoir.

Adam Mann holds up his record perch from Cascade Reservoir.

Lake Cascade is renowned for its “jumbo” yellow perch, so much so that it even attracts anglers from as far away as Wisconsin. Mosinee, Wisconsin, native Adam Mann made the journey in search of some trophy perch ice fishing in March 2021. During that trip, Mann hoisted up a new certified weight record perch, weighing in at 3.22 pounds, or roughly the weight of a bag of apples.

“It was incredible, I’ve never seen anything like that,” Mann said.

His record topped the previously impressive record of 2.96 pounds held by Skye Coulter set in 2016.

A cutthroat tug-of-war

Jon Urban poses with his Lahontan cutthroat trout in June 2021.

Jon Urban poses with his Lahontan cutthroat trout in June 2021.

Jon Urban of Eagle is no stranger to the catch-and-release record books. Urban set the Lahontan cutthroat trout catch-and-release record once before, but had the title stripped earlier this year by Stephen Veals in March. Just two months later, Jon Urban was back on top of the leaderboard, this time with an even bigger Lahontan cutthroat trout — 18.5 inches long — while fishing on Grasmere Reservoir.

Important note: Anglers looking to set a catch-and-release record should be prepared with a tape measure and a camera. Remember, catch-and-release records need to be broken by a minimum of ½ inch to qualify.

Honorable mentions Community pond trophy

Angler Joe Brandes hold his record white crappie from Sawyers Pond.

Angler Joe Brandes hold his record white crappie from Sawyers Pond.

Most local ponds aren’t known for their trophy fish, but Joe Brandes made us reconsider that notion. In July, this lucky Boise angler landed an impressive white crappie while fishing Sawyers Pond near Emmett. While Brandes let the 15 ¼-inch white crappie go, he took home a new catch-and-release state record.

Not too common

This record common carp

This record common carp was caught by angler Kaden Hammer on American Falls Reservoir this year.

It’s not every day that an angler hauls in a 37 ½-pound common carp from the depths of American Falls Reservoir, but on July 14 this year, that’s just what angler Kaden Hammer did. Hammer’s catch earned him the catch-and-release state record for common carp.

Gold-medal tanker

Angler Kyle Stevens hoists a record goldfish

Angler Kyle Stevens hoists a record goldfish caught with a bow on the Snake River.

Back in March, Snake River angler Kyle Stevens shot a massive 3.4-pound goldfish with a bow, earning him a certified weight record for the species in archery.

Checking records in real-time

Catch-and-release records will no longer be printed in the Idaho Fishing Seasons and Regulations brochures. Instead, the online rulebook will be accessible via a QR code that folks can scan (in the brochure) with their mobile phones that will direct them to Fish and Game’s up-to-date table of records. With anglers breaking records left and right, Fish and Game staff are working to keep state record information accessible and current.

Put a wild turkey on your Thanksgiving menu

As hunters notch their deer and elk tags, grind up burger, and line up their fleet of duck decoys, it’s easy to forget about one customary fall tradition. While the general fall turkey season has ended across much of the state, the chance to serve a wild bird at your next holiday feast is still an opportunity in Idaho’s Panhandle and Clearwater regions.

“Hunting turkeys in the fall can be just as exciting as in the spring,” said Jeff Knetter, Fish and Game upland game and migratory game bird coordinator. “Plus in some places, you will likely have the woods all to yourself.”

Fall turkey hunts in Idaho have expanded over the years as turkey populations have increased. Quality hunting can still be found on both public and private lands in the Clearwater and Panhandle regions.

The general season in the Panhandle runs through Jan. 31 in management units 1, 2 (except Farragut State Park and Farragut WMA) 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6. In the Clearwater, the season runs Aug. 30 through Jan. 31 in management units 8, 8A, 10A, 11, 11A, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18.

During fall seasons the daily bag is equal to the number of valid tags possessed. Either sex turkeys may be taken during the fall. The maximum number of tags one hunter can possess in one year is six.

A reminder that airguns are also legal methods of take, as long as the projectiles are .30 caliber or larger.

See the 2021-2022 Upland Game, Turkey, and Furbearer brochure for full turkey hunting seasons and rules.

Hunting on private land

Finding a place to hunt can be as easy as looking at a map or asking a landowner for permission.

Private land hunting in particular is an excellent way to harvest a wild turkey just in time for the holidays. Because it is not uncommon for several hundred turkeys to congregate on or near private property where livestock is fed or crops are being stored, the damage and nuisance they can cause can quickly become a headache for landowners. Providing additional harvest opportunity, particularly in the fall and winter when the birds are concentrated, is the best way to address landowner concerns.

“Many landowners will welcome hunters because they want turkey flocks reduced on their lands,” Knetter said. “But it’s critical that hunters always ask for permission first, and if allowed to hunt, always follow the landowner’s wishes.”

It always seems to be a bit of a joke (at the hunter’s expense) when turkeys take to private lands during fall turkey season. If you happen to see a rafter of turkeys (yes, that is what a group of turkeys is technically called), consider politely asking the landowner if they’re having any bird-related issues on their land and if they would let you assist in alleviating this issue.

Fall hunting strategy and safety

Fall turkey hunting and spring turkey hunting are two separate animals. Hunters will need to adjust their hunting tactics during the fall season, as there is little or no gobbling activity and turkeys congregate in small groups. The basic hunting strategy is to find and break up a group, scattering them in all directions. Hunters then wait as near as possible to the spot where the group was first encountered. Younger birds will usually return within an hour while an old gobbler may take three to four hours.

Fall turkey hunting also presents some unique safety concerns as turkey hunters dress in complete camouflage, make the sound of a turkey and often conceal themselves in dense vegetation. They also share the woods with camouflaged big game hunters in some areas. Hunters must always be certain of their target and what is beyond before pulling the trigger.

To the victor go the spoils

So you successfully bagged a fall turkey – now what? The next step is processing the meat and finding a clever (or cleaver), or perhaps tried and true, way to serve your hard-earned bird to your friends and family. There are several ways to utilize the five most useable cuts of the bird: the breast, the tenderloins, the wings, the thighs and the drumsticks.

Set it and forget it with a slow-cooker. Or maybe go with a classic herb-rubbed turkey breast. Remember wild turkeys are different birds than the store bought varieties, and you will probably want to cook them differently.

And for the traditionalist looking to wow their guests this Thanksgiving or Christmas with a classic, golden-brown whole bird that didn’t come from a grocery store, you can’t go wrong with a perfectly brined, oven-roasted turkey recipe.

Hunting fall turkeys in Northern Idaho is a great opportunity to get outdoors, to take youth or new hunters out for an experience to remember, and one last chance at putting some game in your freezer or on your dinner table. By understanding the rules and regulations you can take comfort knowing that you’re participating in spring turkey hunting the appropriate way. Best of luck.

Hunters: Please fill out your big game hunter reports

Hunter reports are critical to effective big game management, and hunters are needed to do their part

Now that October big game seasons are over, Idaho Fish and Game needs all big game hunters to take a few minutes to fill out their mandatory hunter reports regardless of whether they harvested.

You can help effective wildlife management and do it quickly and easily at or by calling 877-268-9365. The phone option is available 24 hours per day and seven days per week. Please have your hunting tag number when calling. If you don’t have it handy, you can find it in your online account.

If you plan to keep hunting, please remember everyone who bought big game tags must report so wildlife managers can get critical information needed for managing big game herds and proposing future hunting seasons. If harvest information is lacking, biologists have to err on the side of caution, which typically means more restrictive hunting seasons.

By promptly reporting results, license and tag dollars can also be better spent for on-the-ground wildlife management. If you don’t report in a timely manner, Fish and Game will send postcards as reminders and may call individuals to get the information. That’s labor intensive and expensive, and the money could be better used for enhancing big game herds.

Here’s more information about mandatory hunter reports:

The rules say I have 10 days after my hunt ended, what if I miss that deadline? The rule is intended to ensure timely compliance with hunter report requirements so Fish and Game has your information in time to use for developing future hunting seasons, but your report is still needed even if your hunt ended more than 10 days ago.

What if I plan to hunt late seasons? Some deer and elk hunts extend into December. Big game managers are not asking you to report before you’re done hunting, but the sooner after you’re done, the better. If you’re not sure if you’re going to keep hunting, you can file your hunter report and change it later if you harvest an animal.

Are you going to give away my favorite hunting spot? No. All we ask is what unit (or units) you hunted, and if you got an animal, in which unit you harvested it.