New record brook trout caught in Hamilton County
A Hamilton County lake has once again yielded a state record brook trout. May 16, Rick Beauchamp of Mayfield caught a 6-pound, 22.5-incher in Benson's Silver Lake in the Silver Lake Wilderness. He caught the lunker on my favorite trout rig, a Lake Clear Wabbler and worm. Beauchamp's record fish eclipsed the previous record, set in 2012, by 2 ounces. That earlier record brookie came in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces and was taken May 5, 2012, also in Hamilton County, but in the West Canada Wilderness Area.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, until the late 1970s Silver Lake's waters were too acidic to support brook trout. They gradually improved and the agency began an experimental stocking program for brookies in 2002. They currently stock the Windfall strain of trout in the lake. Obviously, it worked because brookies are now the only fish species known to be in the lake.
Do you recall when the state record brookie was a big 8-pounder? That record was eventually "retired" because it had been around for decades and no one was apt to duplicate it, but we're nudging ever closer and virtually each year we see a new state record established for that species -- often just ounces larger than its predecessor but nonetheless larger.
WORLD RECORD 15 LBS.
Incidentally, the world record brookie is a big 31-inch, 15-pounder caught in Ontario's Nipigon River in, I believe, 1915. That fish would undoubtedly have been even larger had it not lain in the bushes behind the fishing camp for several days after it was caught and before it was weighed.
I had the pleasure of fishing the Nipigon River once, on my way west to Montana via a Canadian route, and I can understand why it produced big trout. It's a wild river that's tough to traverse in many places and offers plenty of hiding places for big trout even though hydroelectric projects have muted the river considerably. It's only 30 miles long and flows out of Lake Nipigon and into Lake Superior.
It's not as good a trout river as it used to be but still offers good fishing at times. I should add that my experience on the Nipigon was short-lived and might have been more accurately described as "wetting a line" in the river. It was June, hot and with a cloudless sky. Certainly not the best of days for brook trout fishing though I did see a youngster with one brookie that looked to be about a 2-pounder. Actually, it was the deer flies, my old nemesis, that forced me out of the water and back to the safety of my van.
While many rivers in the Northeast are known for their big brookies, most of our big fish here in New York state come from ponds. That certainly doesn't minimize their value; it just presents different challenges for the angler.
Incidentally, did you know that eight states -- Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia -- have designated the brook trout as their official state fish?
For comparative purposes, here are the record brook trout sizes for several states and provinces near us, and when they were caught: Connecticut - 9 lbs., 3 oz. - 1998; Maine - 9 lbs., 2 oz. - 2010; Massachusetts - 10 lbs. - 2008; New Jersey - 7 lbs., 3 oz. - 1995; Pennsylvania - 7 lbs. - 1996; Rhode Island - 3 lbs., 12 oz. - 1984; and Vermont - 5 lbs., 12 oz. - 1977.
As you can see from this partial list, some of the state record brookies are longstanding, while we're fortunate in having ours change and increase on virtually an annual basis. I hesitate to make predictions because I'm wrong too often, but I'll guess that within the next three or four years - barring unforeseen circumstances - we'll be nudging that magic 8-pound mark again.
If I recall correctly, that's the weight of the long-standing New York state record brook trout that was granted "Historical" standing some years ago and the process of establishing a new state brook trout record began over again. There appears to be a finite limit to the size New York state brook trout can achieve, and if we ever reach 8 pounds again, that record may stand for many years.